Author: Marco Hoffman

Intermag conference in Sendai

Taking active parts in conferences is an essential part of the scientific maturing process. Now, after my first large conference taking place in person, I can truly confirm that the discussions with various experts of the field and presentation of own research results is an inspiring and scientifically, culturally and personally enriching experience. That is why I would like to share some of my impressions gathered during the Intermag conference that took place in Sendai, Tohoku, Japan in mid-May.

It took only the time after landing to the immigration queue, until I met the first friendly faces familiar to me since the European School on Magnetism last year. In the subsequent days I catched up with many friends from Leuven, Grenoble, and Gothenburg, that I met thanks to the great exchange within the SPEAR program. Maybe even more importantly, I met many colleagues from all around the world working on very similar topics, that I was only partially aware of and I am most thankful for broadening my horizon in this regard. Lastly, meeting and talking to people that are famous within the spintronics community and whose publications I studied during the last two years was very motivating.

My own oral contribution dealt with the study on using unconventional pulse shapes employed for SOT-switching of MTJs and I am quite satisfied with the outcome, stimulating several questions that lead to more extended conversations and exchange after my talk.

Travelling and meeting people from around the world is not only about science: The Intermag organisers prepared interesting evening programs that provided us e.g. a deeper historical background knowledge of Japan and Sendai in particular, a Kimono wearing or a chopsticks crafting experience.

Everyone who knows me a bit, knows that I have a weak spot in my heart for food and for Japanese culture. Thus, you can imagine how grateful I was for the plethora of great Japanese meals I could enjoy. During my master’s degree, I had spent six months as an exchange student in Kyoto and I highly enjoyed the opportunity to again make use of my basic Japanese, visit some temples, shrines and onsens (traditional Japanese thermal baths).

Of course, during such a large conference, it is impossible to follow all interesting presentations and posters, so that now I am looking forward to the complementary online offer with recorded versions of all contributions to continue enjoying the exchange even after the in-person conference. It makes sense to exploit all advantages of online options and search for a responsible balance of online and onsite events, since large onsite conferences leave an immense carbon footprint.

To summarize, the participation in Intermag was a very valuable experience that to my perception cannot be entirely replaced by pure online formats. Science is taking place globally and for it to proceed and thrive, it needs to be discussed globally exploiting all different perspectives and insights.

NeuroSpin summer school 2022 in Lausanne

It was a great pleasure for me to co-organize the EPFL-ETH Zurich summer school “NeuroSpin school 2022: Spin based device architectures for neuromorphic computing and storage” from 22-26 August at EPFL in Lausanne.

This all-student-organized school had an active and enthusiastic participation of over 26 students from the ETH domain (EPFL, ETH Zurich, Empa, and Paul Scherrer Institut) as well as from all around Europe. The school was successful in connecting PhD students, master students and postdocs working in diverse fields from magnetism to organic electronics, machine learning and neural information processing. Despite working in different research fields, we came together with a similar vision of understanding and exploring horizons of unconventional and sustainable computing.

All participants and guest speakers of the NeuroSpin 2022 summer school in Lausanne.

We were fortunate to have guest lecturers from the backgrounds of computational neuroscience, spintronics, magnonics and artificial spin systems: Dr. Mihai Petrovici, Dr. Alice Mizrahi, Prof. Erik Folven, Dr. Naemi Leo, Dr. Kevin Garello, Dr. Aleksandr Kurenkov, Prof. Philipp Pirro, and Prof. Gyorgy Csaba. Their inspiring lectures as well as exercise sessions on different simulation and programming softwares were a golden opportunity for us to expand our skillset and knowledge sphere related to computing devices. Furthermore, the poster presentation, journal club session, panel discussion with all the speakers as well as plenty of individual interesting conversations with participants and speakers have definitely broadened our horizons regarding the emergent topic of spin based unconventional computing and we hope to draw benefits from this during our future research.

I was especially happy to reunite with my fellow SPEAR ESRs Maha and Ismael, with whom I spent many hours in scientific and unscientific discussions and who highly contributed to the great atmosphere at the school! I can’t wait to meet you again in Belgium soon!

Next to the massive scientific gain, personally, I also highly appreciate the experience of having organized such an event for a whole week which required nearly a year of preparation time to consider all different aspects necessary to hold a summer school.

As such a task is barely possible for one or few PhD students, I would like thank here my fellow organizing committee members (EPFL: Shreyas Joglekar, Andrea Muchietto, Mohammad Hamdi; ETH/PSI: Laura van Schie, and Zhentao Liu) for the joint efforts during the last year! Also, all the guest speakers and participants deserve my gratitude for showing high commitment and dedication to this school and establishing a great atmosphere in which everyone was happy to learn more from anyone else. Lastly, many thanks to the Doctoral school of EPFL (EDOC) and ETH Zurich for giving us this great opportunity to organize the school and the supporting professors Dirk Grundler (EPFL) and Pietro Gambardella (ETHZ) for their advice and guidance! I am looking forward to more of such events in future!

Settling in in Zurich

It has been several months since I have moved to Zurich, Switzerland, and in spite of few recent rainy and foggy winter days, I feel very well at home. Multiple reasons account for this: First of all, from my first few days I sensed the warm and kind atmosphere among my fellow PhD students and the whole research group lead by Prof. Pietro Gambardella. Whatever problem or scientific question I may have and occur during daily life, everybody likes to help and discuss all sorts of issues. This welcoming attitude greatly simplified my settling down process and enabled me during the last months to get accustomed to the measurement techniques to investigate magnetic tunnel junctions.

However, there is more to Zurich and Switzerland than only work: During the summer I exploited several days to enjoy the mountainous landscape by hiking and cycling. The first picture shows tired me during sunset after hiking up to Schilthorn summit, canton Bern, Switzerland.

One time, I cycled the Alps from Bodensee, Germany to Lago di Como, Italy. The Splügen pass, canton Graubünden, Switzerland is where we overcame the highest chain of mountains and is shown in the second picture. This crossing gave me a better feeling for the slighter and bigger variations in Swiss mentalities and lifestyles in different cantons – not to mention the differing but all great tastes of Swiss cheese.

Needless to say, but Zurich as the largest Swiss city does offer a plethora of opportunities to enjoy free time by itself: Bathing in the river (Limmat), having a barbecue at Zurich lake or walking the nearby hills, to enumerate only few.

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