Presentation of an IFE-employee
IFE’s solar cell lab consists of a complete production line for solar cells. Photo: Mona L. Ramstad (IFE)
I’m a PhD student in the department for Solar Energy at IFE, and therefore I’m currently working on my doctorate degree.
I have a Master of science in «Materials, energy and nanotechnology» from the University of Oslo. My subject had a lot of courses in physics, chemistry and maths, with focus on the fundamental understanding of functional materials’ properties.
I’m a plain, boring Norwegian; my ancestors are all farmers from the East of Norway on both sides. I have spent eight years living in South America though, maybe that counts for something!?
How long have you worked at IFE?
Since August 2010. Time flies in a shocking speed when you are working on a PhD!
How did you get the job?
I saw an advertisement at IFE’s home page and sent an application about half a year before I had completed my master’s degree. IFE had originally planned employing a candidate who could start sooner, but luckily they decided to wait for me!
Did you know about IFE before you got the position?
Yes, I knew several people who had written a Master thesis or worked here, and I’d been on a couple of visits.
What are the main tasks in your job?
I do experimental research on solar cells, so typically I am in the lab, making samples, doing measurements, analysing data, discussing with my colleagues, simulating, making nice figures and illustrations, and writing about the results in research papers. It all sounds very structured and neat when I list the activities like this, but in real life, it’s usually a mix of everything at once.
Halvard Haug with «space suit» on in the solar lab. Working in the clean room means you have to put on a complete protection suit, special socks, gloves, glasses and shoes in order to be allowed in. This is necessary to prevent contamination of the air and surroundings, something which again can reduce the quality of the solar cells. Photo: Mona Lunde Ramstad, IFE
Are you involved in any specific projects at the moment?
I am mainly working on my doctorate/PhD degree, which simply said is about the electrical properties on the solar cell’s surface. It is extremely important that these surfaces are as optimal as possible to avoid efficiency losses in the solar cell. Besides this work, I sometimes get to take a break and work a week or two on industry projects. A bit of variation is nice sometimes!
Who are the clients or contractors?
The solar group’s clients are mainly companies and research partners in different parts of the solar industry. There are many things that need to be perfected in order to make the optimal solar cell, so we get to work on many exciting things!
What does a typical day at work look like?
I come to the office in the morning and usually start off softly with coffee and a chat with my excellent colleagues in the solar energy group. Then I sit in my office reading and writing or doing some programming in Matlab, if I’m not in the lab. I often need to enter our clean room, which is a lab with extra high standards when it comes to cleanliness and dust particles and such, and it is not unusual to see me walking around in a complete yellow “space suit” with the hood on. - And then there’s more coffee, of course.
What is your department’s working environment like?
I think the working environment in our group is awesome, both professionally and socially. It is important to have people around you to collaborate and share ideas with, and it also makes your working day a lot nicer!
Which skills are vital in your job?
As a PhD student it is critical to be good at independent work and keeping up progress on your own. That can sometimes be frustrating. But at the same time, I probably have one of the jobs with the most freedom you can imagine. And it doesn’t hurt if you have some interest for science subjects. If you are totally bored as soon as you have to look at a graph or some equations, there are probably better things you can do.
Is there something you find especially positive, working at IFE?
I’ve mentioned the working environment and the personal liberty you have as a PhD student, so maybe I can brag about our fantastic lab with a range of fun instruments to play with?
Are you engaged in any of the social offers at IFE?
Probably not as much as I should, but I try to join the «solar beer» as often as possible.
What do you do in your spare time?
I guess my spare time is filled with things that are quite typical for science people: going out for a beer with friends, board games, watching TV-shows with my wife, playing computer games and reading Terry Pratchett-books. I also try to find some time to play squash in between.
Do you have an interest that you are passionate about?
I’m afraid I’m a boring all-rounder when it comes to interests. But I have a fascination for close-up magic, I think I am becoming quite good at some card tricks :-)
Do you have a tip you want to share with someone who is looking for a job opportunity at IFE?
A simple tip is to take a Master thesis in collaboration with one of IFE’s departments that match the rest of your education background. Otherwise, there is a big diversity in the types of tasks and people the different departments need. So it can be smart to contact several relevant Department Heads and check what the situation is. There are not many scary, big HR divisions here, so you can approach the relevant experts directly.
Work is fun, but not so bad to have vacation either… At Bali. Photo: private.
More about working at IFE here.
2012-11-07 Mona Lunde Ramstad