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Pursue a PhD? The view of Getnet Kacha DEYU, a Material Scientist

Merci beaucoup d'avoir accepté l'interview.

Can you please describe your student journey until your start of PhD?

I was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and did my Bachelor in Textile Engineering at Bahir Dar University, Ethiopia. After that, I worked as an assistant lecturer for 2 years at Wollo University, Ethiopia. Then, I moved to Italy to peruse my MSc in Materials Science and Engineering at University of Trento. It was during this time I was exposed to a unique world of materials science, which is basically the chemistry and physics of solid states. Thanks to the curriculum of my program there was no specialization during the first year and it allowed me to explore different disciplines of materials science through lectures, seminars and practical lab works. I did my master thesis and research lab work on the functional energy materials namely polymer derived ceramic (PDC). At the end of my study, I obtained a Marie Skłodowska–Curie early stage researcher grant to pursue my double doctorate in functional transparent conducting materials at the Technical University of Darmstadt (Germany) and University of Grenoble Alpes (France).

Can you please briefly describe your PhD thesis work?

The main objective of my thesis was to implement the novel doping strategy for transparent conducting oxide (TCO) materials. TCOs are groups of semiconducting materials, which holds the unique futures of being transparent and electrically conductive and are highly applicable in emerging field of oxide thin film electronics. The implemented strategy called defect modulation doping, which relies on using of defective wide band gap materials to dope the surface of the TCO layers resulting Fermi level pinning at the dopant phase and Fermi level positions outside the doping limit in the TCOs. The approach is tested by using undoped indium oxide (In2O3), tin doped indium oxide (ITO) and tin oxide (SnO2) as TCO host phase and aluminum oxide (Al2O3) and silicon oxide (SiO2−x) as wide band gap dopant phase. The work was distributed between two laboratories, laboratory of materials and physical engineering (LMGP), Grenoble and electronic structure of materials (ESM), Darmstadt.

What motivates you to do a PhD thesis?

I am always intrigued by the fun of knowing and understanding of new things. When I did my master’s thesis, I knew I had a strong passion for research and wanted to continue doing cutting-edge research in the field of materials science. That is why I choose a project which need interdisciplinary knowledge of physics, chemistry, nanotechnology and engineering. My PhD time was a unique experience in which I learned a lot and develop several technical and soft skills. In addition, as the program was between two countries, it allowed me to have a wonderful experience of living in different countries, travel a lot and learn new languages.

Can you briefly describe your career path after PhD?

After my PhD, I am working as a researcher at the Institute of Experimental Physics at Universität Hamburg and Helmholtz Center of German Electron Synchrotron-DESY. My research focus on surface engineering of Superconducting Radio Frequency (SRF) cavities, which are one of the key technologies for modern particle accelerators. My tasks range from doing research, to managing money and supervising students. The technical and soft skills I acquired during my PhD helps me a lot in my current position.

Any advice for students who want to do PhD?

First of all, the students should be passionate about doing research. Before starting the position, they should do enough research on the research topic, research group, supervisors, expectations of the program and the city/country they want to work. This way, they will be well prepared for PhD life ahead of them. Once they start the project, they have to be proactive and take a leading role of the thesis. This includes using their colleagues, collaborators and project partners as they are affluence of knowledge and experience of the research topic. Surely the PhD will open many doors for their future job market.

Finally, enjoy your PhD! It can be tough and there may will be days when they will wish they had a ‘normal’ job, but it will worth the hustle as it will be full of delightful experiences and opportunities.

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