Maya Reimi Sipala '12 Electronics & Semiconductors

What do you do now? 

I work full time as a scientist in Silicon Valley, analyzing precursor chemicals for ultra-trace levels of impurities to support the manufacturing of semiconductors and nanofilms. This process is used for modern computer chips, solar panels, processors, OLED screens and other advanced electronics. The ultimate application of my work is to build more efficient, smaller, and cheaper electronics.

Why do you think studying geoscience is important?

The questions geoscientists are trying to answer are complex and we are often missing information needed to fully answer them. Therefore, geoscience teaches you to make the most out of what you have. Learning to think critically about the holes in your knowledge is a very valuable skill. I discovered my passion for using chemistry as a way to solve complex problems at the W&L geology department, where I got to use my first spectrometer, the ICP-OES. It turns out that working with large spectrometers is a great way to ensure access to modern plumbing as a geologist.

When did you realize you were a geoscientist?

When I was a junior (and technically already a geology major) I met a pair of graduate students at GSA and I suddenly had an interview with their advisor to work at his uranium crystallography lab at Notre Dame for the summer. When I realized I could become a geochemist, and do most of my work in the lab, I finally believed there was a career path for me as a geoscientist.

What do you like to do in your free time? What's your favorite hike in Rockbridge?

I try to spend a lot of time at the beach if the weather is good or I walk the Redwoods. I also run a small game of dungeons and dragons with my neighbors. My favorite hike in Rockbridge County is Devil's Marbleyard because I can boulder hop, and if I take non-geology people, I can pedantically explain that it is not actually marble.