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"The feeling that you could be developing one of the technologies of the future is indescribable".

Daniel Talán, a former student of Tecnun, shares his experience as a PhD student at CERN in Geneva.

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Daniel Talán PHOTO: Courtesy
20/08/19 12:23 Communication Service

Daniel Talán, from San Sebastian and a former student of Tecnun, is currently at CERN doing a PhD in diamond optics. Talán graduated in Electronic Communications Engineering and did a Master's degree in Telecommunications Engineering at Tecnun. Grateful for the training he received, he acknowledges that the School allows its students to develop, giving them opportunities such as working at Fraunhofer, studying at IESE or visiting NASA. "All of them give you a run-in that, as I have seen at CERN, other students don't have, and it seems like they don't, but they are things that make a difference".

How did the opportunity to go to Geneva arise?

From the moment I discovered that there is a branch of electronics that studies the possibility of replacing current electrical circuits with optical circuits, it was clear to me that this was the area of research I wanted to pursue. The main materials used for the development of optical circuits are different forms of carbon, such as nanotubes, graphene or diamond. During my bachelor's and master's degree projects at Ceit I worked with lasers and graphene, trying to steer my line of research towards optics and the world of lasers in diamond. This led me to meet Dr. Eduardo Granados, a former student of Tecnun and colleague at Ceit. Eduardo was the one who contacted me to inform me about the opportunity to do a PhD in diamond optics at CERN, as I fulfilled all the necessary requirements to carry out the research. And the rest is history. I applied to CERN's "Doctoral Students Program", and given my expertise in lasers and optics I was one of the successful candidates for the programme.

What does your PhD consist of?

My PhD revolves around the world of optics and diamonds. We are currently working on a laser device that we want to patent. Therefore, I cannot give any details about the device itself, apart from the fact that it is a diamond Raman laser. During my three years as a doctoral student, my goal will be to work on the development, measurement, analysis, characterisation and study of the laser and, if time permits, its complete integration in diamond. There are also other projects in which I will be involved and with which I will complement my training.

What do you enjoy most about research?

It's hard to think of what I like the most, but if I had to choose just one thing, it would be the novelty. The fact of developing such a cutting-edge technology, with such a wide range of possibilities, is something that amazes me. The feeling that you could be developing one of the technologies of the future is indescribable. Moreover, every day is a new challenge, as no one has ever tried anything like it before. You don't know what you're going to encounter and that's a real adventure.

Beyond the novelty, the fact that I am doing a PhD in applied physics instead of engineering is also something I appreciate. I have to go much deeper into the physical processes than I did as an engineer, and this means a greater effort, but also a greater reward in the form of learning.

I would also like to stress that working at CERN is a unique opportunity. The facilities and research possibilities are extraordinary. The training you receive is exceptional. And, above all, the possibility of meeting and working with so many people from so many different countries, cultures and backgrounds is truly enriching. And all this in the spectacular setting of this city of Geneva, from where I can see the imposing Mont Blanc on the horizon.

What would you highlight from the training received at Tecnun?

I think that my complete training at Tecnun, both the degree and the master's degree, has been truly exceptional. In the first year we were told that the School trains people and not engineers, and this is absolutely true. Obviously the technical training is very good, but the branch of research I opted for is completely different from my training as a Telecommunications Engineer. And, even so, my lack of knowledge in physics is not noticeable, because at Tecnun we develop a working capacity, a problem-solving mentality and a level of discipline that allows us to overcome adversities such as this. But, as I have already said, if there is one thing that makes a student at Tecnun stand out, it is the personal training he or she has. My short professional experience has shown me that I am capable of dealing with all kinds of people and that I am prepared to show a good image to any type of organisation or event. And this is something that Tecnun allows you to develop by giving you opportunities such as working at Fraunhofer, studying at IESE or visiting NASA. These opportunities give you a 'run-in' that, as I have seen at CERN, other students don't have, and it seems that they don't, but these are things that make a difference.

What are your future plans?

That's a good question. At the very least, I want to make the most of the three years I have ahead of me here at CERN. My life can change a lot in three years, so it's not easy to give an answer. The truth is that the time I am back at Tecnun to finish my thesis I would like to work in teaching, I think it would be very interesting to give some classes as an assistant professor. This would allow me to find out whether I prefer the research line or the teaching line. But as I have already said, it is difficult to know what I will do after my PhD, as the options are endless. What is clear to me is that I want to continue learning, whether as a researcher, as a teacher, as an engineer or even as something completely different. I decided to do a PhD for this very reason, and I believe that in my near future it will be what sets my course. Wherever I go, my maxim will be to keep working on new and innovative topics, places where I can keep learning new things every day. And if I can, I would like to keep travelling and getting to know new countries and cultures.

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