Dr. Pilar Herrera-Fierro, senior director of the LNF, receives 2021 COE staff excellence award

Dr. Herrera-Fierro goes out of her way to support student, faculty, and external users of the Lurie Nanofabrication Facility, and is considered a key component of its success

Pilar Herrera-Fierro Enlarge
Pilar Herrera-Fierro

Dr. Pilar Herrera-Fierro was honored with a 2021 College of Engineering Staff Excellence Award for her extraordinary efforts as Senior Director of User Services for the Lurie Nanofabrication Facility (LNF). She is one of seven individuals throughout the entire College to receive the award, which recognizes exemplary work over a long period of time, or special achievements. Herrera-Fierro embodies both.

“Pilar’s dedication to the LNF, the College of Engineering and the community as a whole is truly amazing,” said LNF Managing Director Sandrine Martin.

As Director of User Services, a position she assumed in 2015, Herrera-Fierro is responsible for facilitating the work of all researchers who use the LNF. The facility averages about 450 users per year from more than 100 research groups representing over 20 departments within the University, as well as more than 15 universities and 35 different companies.


Pilar puts forward an extended extra effort to help students by operating beyond her staff role to support us.

LNF User Committee, student members

Pilar is “one of the outstanding professional staff in the Lurie NanoFabrication Facility” said Stephen Forrest, Peter, A. Franken Distinguished University Professor of Engineering and one of the primary users of the LNF. “In many respects, I regard Pilar as one of my group members, since she has been unfailingly helpful with training and assisting my many students over the years in their projects in the LNF. She shows a very personal interest to all students and invests in their success.”

Students on the LNF User Committee praised Herrera-Fierro’s contributions to their success, saying “Pilar puts forward an extended extra effort to help students by operating beyond her staff role to support us. She is also a helpful resource for students seeking work, connecting students with professors and companies looking for their specific area of expertise.”

These students requested Herrera-Fierro take on the role of staff sponsor of the LNF User Committee when the previous member retired, saying she “fosters a strong sense of community. She is a driving force behind our community events such as BBQs, donut hours, and our table at the ECE family fun day. Herrera-Fierro also encourages active participation by women in engineering in the User Committee, believing that our involvement in the community and in leadership roles helps to improve our experience and aid retention. Of 15 members, 7 of us are women, a nearly 50% rate of representation that is not often found in engineering.”

Herrera-Fierro has gone the extra mile to offer research opportunities for undergraduate students through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP). These projects require additional planning and monitoring. In recognition of her important contributions to the program, Herrera-Fierro participated in the selection committee for the hiring of the new UROP director in 2017.

She is also generous of her time in recruiting students to the University of Michigan both at the undergraduate and graduate level. And her impact is felt by future scientists and engineers through her efforts in developing ECE’s Electrify Summer Camp, Nano Size It. She developed once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for high school students to design and fabricate solar cells within the LNF as part of the camp experience.

And that’s not all. Herrera-Fierro spearheaded the LNF’s sustainability efforts with the U-M Office of Sustainability, including recycling of the large quantity of chemical containers. The effort resulted in a gold certification and a presentation at an American Chemical Society conference on Green Chemistry.

Herrera-Fierro does all this while keeping the LNF safe for the users. She reviews and approves hundreds of orders each year to help maintain safe operation for all.