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"The feeling that you may be developing one of the technologies of the future is indescribable."
The former student of Tecnun, Daniel Talán, shares his experience as PhD student of CERN, in Geneva.
Daniel Talán, from San Sebastian and former student of Tecnun, is currently at CERN pursuing a PhD in diamond optics. Talán has a degree in Electronic Communications Engineering and a Master's degree in Telecommunications Engineering from 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 these give you a run-in that, as I observed at CERN, other students don't have, and it seems like they don't, but these are things that make a difference."
How did the opportunity to go to Geneva arise?
Since I discovered that there is a branch of electronics that studies the possibility of replacing current electrical circuits with optical circuits, it was very clear to me that this was the area research area to which I wanted to dedicate myself. The main materials used for the development of optical circuits are different forms of carbon, such as nanotubes, graphene or diamond. During my Degree and master 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, former student of Tecnun and colleague at Ceit. Eduardo was the one who contacted me at contact to inform me about the opportunity to do a PhD in diamond optics at CERN, since I fulfilled all the requirements necessary to carry out the research. And the rest is history. I applied for admission to CERN's "Doctoral Students Program", and given my expertise in lasers and optics I was one of the successful candidates for the program.
What does your PhD consist of?
My PhD revolves around the world of optics and diamond. We are currently working on a laser device that we want to patent. Therefore, I can give hardly any details about the device itself, beyond the fact that it is a diamond Raman laser. Throughout the three years as PhD student, my goal will be working on the development, measurement, analysis, characterization and study of the laser and, if time permits, its complete integration in diamond. Similarly, 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. In addition, every day is a new challenge, since no one has ever explored anything like it before. You don't know what you might 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 emphasize that working at CERN is a unique opportunity. The facilities and possibilities at the research level 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 really enriching. And all this, in such a spectacular framework as 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 really exceptional. In the first year we were told that the School trains people and not engineers, and it is totally true. Obviously the technical training is very good, but the research branch I have chosen is completely different from my training as a Telecommunications Engineer. And, even so, my lack of knowledge in physics is not noticeable, due to the fact that in Tecnun we develop a working capacity, a problem-solving mentality and a level of discipline that allows us to overcome adversities such as this one. But, as I have already said, if there is something that makes a student of Tecnun stand out, it is the staff training it has. My short professional experience has shown me that I am able to deal with all subject of people and that I am prepared to show a good image to any subject organization 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 like they don't, but these are things that make a difference.
What are your future plans?
That's a good question. For the little, to make the most of these three years I have ahead of me here at CERN. My life can change a lot in three years, so it is 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, give some class as a professor teaching assistant I think it would be very interesting. This would allow me to find out if 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, since the options are endless. What is clear to me is that I want to continue learning, either as researcher, as a teacher, as an engineer or even as something totally different. I decided to pursue 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 novel and innovative topics, places where I can keep learning new things every day. And if I can, I would like to keep traveling and getting to know new countries and cultures.