I'll keep puzzling untill I understand

Ir. Ineke Wijnheijmer, employee

PhD student at research group Photonics Semiconductors Nanophysics, Applied Physics

"Admittedly, I have to have patience in my research. But I love being in the lab, keeping busy. Measurements, and the initial puzzlement on how it works. After a few months puzzling, I get it. That's the challenge!"

"During my graduate studies in the group Photonics Semiconductors Nanophysics, I found that my passion lies in research. I came to the conclusion that I wanted to be doing it for four years. I research semiconductors, which are used in the computer chip industry. Computer technology moves very fast: computer chips become smaller and smaller. We are now at a level that individual atoms are coming into play. Semiconductors contain foreign atoms, which become less active as they move closer to the surface. Those active foreign make sure the transistor works. The smaller the chip, the more atoms are (relatively) closer to the surface."

"At one point the chips will become so small that the foreign atoms won't exhibit enough activity, and the chip will no longer work. This is why understanding on what is happening on anotomaire scale in the semiconductor is increasingly important. By discovering why this isn't working anymore, I have the basis for a solution. In my research, I use a scanning tunneling microscope. With a sharp tip we scan the surface, and we see the individual atoms."

"When I was reading to begin my career, the TU/e wasn't the only option for me. I applied in the industry, at the research department of a large international company. Ultimately, I chose the TU/e. The main reason was the freedom I get here. Research in the industry is generally closer to a practical application, thus the results of your research are largely fixed. Research is mainly used to optimize and improve applications. At the TU/e, we are a little further off when it comes to specific applications. There is at least a ten-year period before you see the research we are doing today in a specific application. Our goal is to create more understanding on what happens on an atomic scale. This broad scope gives you more opportunities to steer your own research."

"During my studies I said that I'd never pursue a PhD. I had, and many fellow students agreed, a somewhat 'dusty' image of the PhD. Students often think that, when you pursue a PhD, you still half a doctoral student, who just breezes through. This is totally untrue. You are a full-fledged doctoral employee, with related tasks. While your research is less tightly framed as in the industry, you still really have to perform. You are judged on your performance during conversations with your supervisor. At the end of your research, you need to have at least four publications in your name, and you need to show your results in conferences regularly, in the form of a poster presentation or research. You should therefore not let yourself be misguided by the 'dusty' image. You should, however, really like your research."

International exchange
"During your promotional period, you are regularly abroad. I've spent four months in Santa Barbara in the USA, working on local research. It was very educational, not only from a research perspective, but also because I became acquainted with a totally different way of working. "

"I also go to an international conference twice a year. And there are collaborations with other universities. My research, for example, is part of a European project, with a research group in Nottingham and a partnership with a theoretical group in Iowa. We don't visit there regularly, of course. We use Skype to exchange knowledge and experiences."
Good atmosphere
"Typical of the TU/e, and the Faculty of Applied Physics, is the pleasant atmosphere. Applied Physics is a relatively small department, where everyone knows each other. People interact with each other in an informal way, and the communication lines between students, graduates and academic staff are small. In short, the TU/e is a challenging, innovative, and accessible employer!"