FP7 Marie Skłodowska-Curie COFUND Programme
Dr. Westig is a German researcher carrying out a research project in the Condensed Matter Physics Laboratory at CEA/IRAMIS (Saclay Institute for Radiation and Matter). He has now been working at CEA for more than two years and was granted with a 36-month Enhanced Eurotalents fellowship. He is sharing is experience with us – read the full interview below!
I got my PhD in condensed matter physics/mesoscopic detector physics at the University of Cologne in Germany. During my studies, I also had the opportunity to carry out research at Kavli Institute of Nanoscience in Delft, in the Netherlands. When I got my PhD, I applied for a position in the CEA-Condensed Matter Physics laboratory, because it is one of the best institutes in our field on a global scale. The Quantronics Group and the Nanoelectronics Group are particularly renowned. The Quantronics group was founded thirty years ago, and the activities that are being conducted are state-of-the art research in the field of condensed matter physics and mesoscopic physics.
Many people want to come here, as the laboratory has a great reputation. You probably write fewer publications than in American labs for instance and as a matter of fact, publications are more than crucial to researchers. However, many international scientists acknowledge our work and sometimes even take our publications as a reference, because of the very particular quality of the research here in Saclay. I was happy to come here, as it is a great opportunity for my career and the laboratory is renowned and highly selective.
I am part of a group of 5 people: two PhD students, the head of the Quantronics department, Daniel Esteve, the primarily responsible person for our experiment and research Fabien Portier, and myself. Generally speaking, we are working on mesoscopic electronics, specifically on quantum circuits which only work at very low-temperature only a few thousandth degree of Kelvin above the absolute zero temperature. With our research, we are contributing to the emerging fields of quantum computation, quantum information and quantum detection where our group has already realised milestone experiments in the past.
I don't think so. The programme allowed me to gain time to conduct the research. It is always taking more time than expected and being financially supported was an opportunity given especially by the Enhanced Eurotalents programme. In addition to this, the scientific atmosphere here is very warm and open; I have rarely seen this elsewhere. Everybody is willing to help you and is happy to discuss science with you.
I think it does, on an interpersonal level at least. People are really interested in getting to know my culture and vice versa. This creates a rich cultural exchange which can only be beneficial for the work atmosphere. I can also practice my French here, even though I work in English most of the time.
I enjoy life in France a lot, I had the opportunity to visit many French regions and I really like Paris. I had no problem finding an accommodation close to work.
I think the programme is really to the point. It opens doors for international researchers and allows us to make the most of our scientific work at CEA. What I appreciated a lot was the Evaluation Summary Report I was provided with when I was granted an Enhanced Eurotalents fellowship. It was very honest and constructive. There were not only positive comments but also advice to improve specific elements. Also, when I had issues with French labour laws, Human Resources helped a lot; as CEA is used to receiving international mobility researchers, it was solved very efficiently. For all these reasons, I would highly recommend the programme.
I was offered a position at Kavli Institute of Nanoscience in Delft, Netherlands. I think I owe this opportunity to the visibility entailed by my position here at CEA in a prestigious laboratory. In the framework of the project I am working in, we are collaborating with this Institute and the researchers were interested in my skills. I will keep collaborating with the Condensed Matter Physics Laboratory as both institutes have close scientific and professional links. I also received a return possibility to go back to Germany to establish a group at a university, once again thanks to the experience and visibility I gained through my stay here.
In the long-run, I would like to set up my own laboratory in Germany. Mobility programmes are amazing opportunities but at some point, it is necessary to settle in order to carry out experiments on longer periods of time. When moving from one laboratory to another, you obviously cannot take the experiments with you. This is why I ultimately aspire to build up my own group so as to follow a research project at a larger scale.
CEA is a French government-funded technological research organisation in four main areas: low-carbon energies, defense and security, information technologies and health technologies. A prominent player in the European Research Area, it is involved in setting up collaborative projects with many partners around the world.