PhD student Belén Amado-Rey about her work at Fraunhofer IAF

PhD student Belén Amado-Rey about her work at Fraunhofer IAF
© Fraunhofer IAF

»Expertise and advanced technology levels make research in Germany so attractive.«

Fraunhofer IAF offers graduates of different subjects the opportunity to pursue a scientific career within the scope of a PhD project. Also many young scientists from abroad participate in the research at Fraunhofer IAF –  but which aspects motivate them and who are the persons and their stories behind it? Belén Amado-Rey, a PhD student from Cáceres in Spain, is enthusiastic about the high level of the research landscape in Germany: »In Spain barely anyone works at those high frequencies. With its expertise and advanced technologies, Fraunhofer IAF offers great opportunities.«

Belén Amado-Rey (27) studied electrical engineering in Cáceres in Spain. Since February 2014, she works as a PhD student in the High Frequency Electronics department of Fraunhofer IAF. In the interview, she introduces her research topic and her motivation for a scientific career in Germany.

What task are you researching on?

Within the scope of my triennial PhD project, I focus on the design of high frequency amplifiers that reach over 300 GHz. They find application in many kinds of radars for imaging systems. These developments are based on the technology of metamorphic high electron mobility transistors (mHEMT-technology). At the moment, for example, I am working on a project for 240 GHz amplifiers for radars applied in the automobile industry.

How did you find out about a PhD position at Fraunhofer IAF and how did you find your topic?

Since I had already done some research on high frequency amplifiers for my master thesis, it was my wish to deepen my knowledge of high frequency electronics and to participate in new developments. Regrettably in Spain barely any institute works with very high frequency ranges. It’s thus not easy to find interesting and challenging PhD positions in this research area, including the corresponding funding. My lecturer, who had worked at Fraunhofer IAF as a guest scientist in the past, told me about the institute in Freiburg. And I was lucky – there was a vacancy exactly in my field of research! So although I only knew very little German and had no experience in working abroad, I handed in my application – this was a great opportunity I did not want to miss!

Can you name any major differences in the research work and facilities here in Germany compared to your country?

The technical equipment, the expertise, the advanced technologies and the research level here in Germany cannot be compared to our standards. Most Spanish universities do not provide as many facilities and high quality equipment as we can access here at Fraunhofer IAF – like the clean room or measuring systems for example. Thus, Germany and especially Fraunhofer with its applied approach to research, offers much better opportunities for a career in research and the development of innovative technologies and devices.

Are there any negative aspects of doing your PhD in Germany?

That would definitely be the food! I miss the Spanish dishes – especially the fish. Also the weather is much better in Spain. But apart from that I really like it here.

What is it that motivates you for working in research at Fraunhofer?

In my team here at Fraunhofer IAF I can bring in my own ideas, learn about new technologies and methods and work on concrete projects at the same time! The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaftoffers a good mixture of research and concrete applications. In general, there is a big difference to working in industry where you rather work on defined areas within the guidelines given by the company or industry. In research, on the other hand, you are free to try new things and to design new devices.

You take part in TALENTA, a program for women in research. How do you benefit from it?

It’s a great opportunity to obtain further trainings and to attend seminars and congresses on different topics. I can extend my scientific know-how and improve my research or soft skills. Through the extra study time granted by the TALENTA program I also have the time to really focus on elaborating my PhD thesis besides the actual research work in the laboratory.

What has been your highlight at Fraunhofer IAF so far?

My highlight at Fraunhofer IAF was my very first design of an amplifier which was successful – although it didn’t reach the high frequency I was aiming for. But it didn’t oscillate, which is a requirement for precise measurements. I was really proud of my first achievement.

How would you describe Fraunhofer IAF in three words?

Motivating – personal development – integration

What would you like to achieve in future, in your private or in professional life?

I would like to write a novel! I enjoy reading a lot and always wanted to write my own mystery novel. But so far I haven’t dared to start. That’s one thing I’d like to achieve in my life – besides producing good amplifier designs, of course!

Would you tell us about your favorite spot in Freiburg?

There is a place called »Waldhaus« (Forest House), with the so-called »Waldmenschen« (Forest People) with sculptures in the trees. In one of them, someone has carved in the shape of Don Quijote! I don’t know what was the intention of it, but it looks artistic!