ESR Blog


Hamburg exudes moisture and breathes fog. It flows, as a slippery snake sweating in silence among its canals. Hamburg embraces you with its omipresent humidity in an eternal, soft and vaporous hug. From time to time, Hamburg smiles shyly through a distant sun, and reminds you that it loves you (what Hamburg really does).

At weekends, at night, a new river, smaller and warmer than the Elbe, appears. A human surge coming from everywhere leads to its burning heart which is Reeperbahn. The wetness is forgotten, and the fog becomes steam born from the skin of an incommensurable inexhaustible crowd. The next morning, as if it were a beach full of stranded mermaids, the Fischmarkt gathers the ones who have survived the night.

Hamburg walks slowly side by side with you, but it walks ruthless. It never stops, and it encourages you to do the same, as if this millenary city believed in you even more than yourself.

Hamburg is my new home. I didn’t understand the city when I arrived in August, and I have not understood it yet, but I want to, and I will do it. Every day that I live in this great city I learn something new, I grow as a person, and I become more aware of the city, the culture, the world and myself. I love Hamburg, I love where I am and what I am. And this is just the beginning.

First impressions and First steps

It’s been a little over a month since I arrived in Germany, and the first impressions are amazing. Halle is a beautiful town, with lots of green areas. We have a huge park near the campus where I can go for walks and enjoy nature.

I have had the warmest welcome, starting with a cake party thrown by my main advisor Dr. Mertig. Everyone in the group is really friendly and supportive, they have been assisting me in every single little problem. This certainly has been helpful as I navigate through a new country and language. Additionally, as part of my personal development and, of course, to get settled in Germany, I have enrolled myself in a German course provided by SPEAR and the University. This is a very fun and rewarding experience because I get to make a lot of friends from all over the world.

In the first month, I have also started my baby steps in this new field of research. I’m particularly happy to be developing project ESR10, Skyrmions have fascinating physics with promising applications. I have been learning tools that allow me to visualize these awesome spin textures and create simulations such as the one I made below of a Skyrmion in a racetrack memory. Hopefully in the next few months, I will be using these tools to uncover the physics and applications of Skyrmions.

Everyday life in Grenoble

My PhD started incredibly well! I had the luck of finding such a wonderful group of people always available for help and suggestions.
I enjoyed a lot of time with them also outside the laboratory. It is common to organise something all together and Grenoble is famous for having beautiful mountains all around and a lot of people enjoying hiking. For this reason, only few days after I joined the group, we went all together to Le Col Vert.

Here we had lunch surrounded by nature and with a beatiful view of Grenoble’s surroundings.

About the everyday time on the lab: at the moment I am checking through the ST FMR technique to evaluate the charge to spin conversion of a topological insulator at different temperatures. The idea is to extract the efficiency of the conversion from the measurements, but this step is not straightforward. Everything is working well only thanks to the experienced members of my team, that they do not hesitate in helping and discussing the results.
I spent also a lot of time in cleanroom to prepare the samples through depositions and etching.
I am really happy in spending my time at work, since I am learning a lot of things and the experience is exciting everyday.

Systems acting like the brain…

Two months have passed since the beginning of the research on using spintronics for ML hardware. Transfering a technology to an application regarding an already extremely complex system relying on an established industry is no joke, but here in IMEC the team is made up of people working at all levels of abstraction in conceiving electronic systems, and I learn a lot from the software as well as the hardware side to design Machine Learning algorithms. Learning as fast as possible is the key of my research at the moment. In the attempt of emulating the human brain with machines, lots of questions arise.

Indeed, the line of research in electronics has always been toward linearity, absence of noise and lowering the entropy of the system, giving us a sense of order which has brought us very far. However, the brain is still orders of magnitude better and more efficient than even the most advanced supercomputer, and we just know very little about it. This requires an effort to be more creative than ever.

On the other side, Leuven is a lovely, young city, full of events and parties in every corner of the city. I especially enjoy playing sports here as well as tasting one of the thousands of beer brands available in Belgium. The middle age gothic architecture is outstanding and it naturally reminds me of the stories of knights and people of the Western Europe, centuries ago.

Getting connected

In the last two weeks, thanks to an early part secondment, I had the opportunity to get to know many different preparation and exfoliation possibilities at CIC nanoGUNE. Besides the many scientific experiences, I came into contact with many friendly and helpful scientists and was able to enjoy the time there, also because of the good weather. Besides Marco, who works with me in Zurich, I also got to know two other ESRs personally here, Mayank and Eoin. Fortunately, my time in San Sebastián/Donostia coincided exactly with a statistically significant accumulation of birthdays, so I got to enjoy freshly baked cake at work surprisingly often.

The view over one of the beaches of San Sebastián/Donostia towards the city center.

I spent most of my time at the glove box exfoliating various non-stable materials and building stacks with the stamping system. In the picture you can see the transfer process, where the flakes are transferred to a substrate using polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS). With this technique, precisely aligned complex hetero structures can be produced successively.

Stamping process mid stamping. The exfoliated flakes are on the PDMS which is on the bottom side of the glass slide.

Back in Zurich, I will continue the exfoliation of van-der-Waals crystals of different materials. The new knowledge I gained at CIC nanoGUNE and especially the personal tips on the exfoliation for specific materials will help me to fabricate different types of samples in the near future, either in a controlled environment or under ambient conditions.

Finally, I can only thank you for the wonderful time and send my greetings to Spain.

An unexpected meeting…

Perhaps my ear to ear smile itself explains the joy I am experiencing in this moment. It was just two years ago when I was finishing my bachelor’s that I came across the word Spintronics. At that time, I did not realize that soon I would become a part of big project like SPEAR and that I would be working at CIC nanoGUNE (San Sebastián, Spain), where I would get to meet the creator of the Spintronics field itself, Noble laurate Prof. Albert Fert. Prof. Fert is a frequent collaborator of Prof. Felix Casanova, my supervisor and co-leader of the Nanodevices group, and he happened to be visiting our research center last month.

Although it has just been one month since I started my journey as a doctoral researcher at CIC nanoGUNE the experience has been very rewarding. I am learning new preparation and characterization techniques for the 2D magnetic materials which is exciting and challenging at the same time. 

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