Sally Wolcott receives 2020 Maria Lastra Award for professional excellence

Sally Wolcott has received the 2020 Maria Lastra Award, an annual honor that recognizes one staff member who has made an outstanding contribution and/or demonstrated professional excellence at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME).

Wolcott, the business manager of the Pritzker Nanofabrication Facility (PNF), was selected for the award based on her instrumental work in helping set up and run the PNF.

“Sally took this position on as a blank slate and created a large number of processes and systems that the PNF relies on critically for most of its functions,” said Prof. Andrew Cleland, the faculty director of the PNF. “Without her tireless effort and willingness to go well beyond the expectations of her position, it would be much more challenging for PNF Technical Director Peter Duda and I to manage the cleanroom operations and for users to access and utilize this critical recharge research facility.”

“Sally exemplifies the professional excellence we look for in our staff at PME,” said Matthew Tirrell, dean of Pritzker Molecular Engineering. “She’s been invaluable in helping researchers, both in the University and in partner institutions and industry, get what they need from the facility.”

Wolcott, who joined the PME in May 2015, is known for her passion for helping students and researchers get the most value out of the facilities she helps run, encouraging collaboration that lets graduate and undergraduate students learn from one another.

“Our team is very user-forward,” said Wolcott, referring to the students, postdocs, faculty, and industry professionals who use the PNF. “When we make decisions, we’re thinking about how that’s going to work for users. We want to make it as easy as possible for them.”

“Sally serves as the point person for all interactions with PNF users, who currently number over 200 active users per month,” added Cleland, the John A. MacLean Sr. Professor of Molecular Engineering Innovation and Enterprise. “The cleanroom users all deeply appreciate her professional and very positive attitude, and rely on her in many ways for their interactions with the cleanroom.”

Prior to joining PME, Sally worked as an operations manager in the Department of Pediatrics, where she was involved in the management of several specialty practice areas within the department. Before working at the University of Chicago, Wolcott worked in the marine industry for more than 25 years. She is a graduate of the University of Washington with a bachelor’s degree in metallurgical engineering.

The Maria Lastra Award was established in 2019 by Prof. Juan de Pablo, and is named in honor of his mother, an ardent supporter of higher education and advocate for recognizing those who make a significant difference in the lives of others through their professionalism and generosity.

A selection committee consisting of faculty, staff, students, and the previous year’s awardee choose the recipient based on nominations. The committee expressed appreciation for the number and strength of this year’s nominations, saying they had many excellent candidates to choose from.