Diamonds are multi-talented: they are not only popular as jewelry crystals, but also offer a great potential for future communication devices. Taro Yoshikawa, a PhD student from Yokohama in Japan, took the chance to contribute to the diamond research at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics IAF in order to become part of the »fast research cycle in Germany«.
Taro Yoshikawa (26) works at Fraunhofer IAF in Freiburg as a PhD student since May 2014. He specialized in the field of crystal growth as a Master student in Material Science at Aoyama Gakuin University in Sagamihara. In our interview, he outlines his motivation for a scientific career in Europe and his way to Fraunhofer IAF.
What task are you researching on for your PhD project?
I work in the group for Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), where we develop diamond-based components for future communication devices, such as transceivers for radio frequencies. In communication technology, we deal with very high frequencies ranging from 900 MHz to 5 GHz. To achieve a clear signal processing, unwanted frequencies have to be eliminated. This can be accomplished by a rapidly vibrating component, which needs to consist of a very hard material. And this is where diamond enters the game, as it is the hardest natural material! Depending on the geometry or size of the diamond resonator, you can choose the required resonance frequency, so you only receive that particular frequency.
How did you find out about a PhD position at Fraunhofer IAF?
As I always wanted to do my PhD abroad, I basically had two options – going to the United States or to Europe. When comparing the two research styles, I decided that the European way of researching corresponded more to my own motivation and ideas. My previous supervisor for my Master’s thesis is a good friend of Dr. Christoph Nebel, the Head of the Semiconductor Sensors Department at Fraunhofer IAF and thus knows the institute very well. He also believed that my scientific way of thinking would perfectly match to the concept of the institute and he recommended applying here.
So what were the factors motivating you for a PhD project abroad?
That’s simple: my curiosity! I am always interested in the ‘unknown’, not only scientific facts but also anything around me such as different cultures, languages and so on. I think for my scientific career it is important to broaden my horizon. An essential point for good research is to be open-minded because research is to see what everybody else has seen, but to think what nobody else has thought before.
You emphasize the different research styles. What characterizes research in Europe according to your understanding?
I like the idea of achieving something that is currently impossible, but which might be possible in future… This seems to be the motivation behind research in Europe, while in the US research appears to be focusing much more on understanding the underlying basic theories. Science in Europe and especially at Fraunhofer is understood as something vivid, something that is constantly evolving. Researchers here basically never give up. They always pursue their idea and keep on trying, with new technologies and procedures until they succeed in obtaining a concrete finding. That’s probably why so many inventions come from Europe!
Can you name any major differences in the research work here in Germany compared to Japan?
In Japan, people are even more cautious about the conditions in the laboratories than here. This ensures clear results – but sometimes slows down the development process. In comparison, the speed of research here is very fast – that’s because so many different ideas are handled at one time. Of course the scientists think about their theories carefully, but then the ideas are put into practice quite quickly. This means that the cycle of research here in Germany is much faster than in Japan.
With regards to the working style, I also think there’s a big difference. As far as I experienced, people here strictly divide private and professional life. I think this is very important for daily life! My only concern is if I will have troubles adapting to the very different Japanese life and work style again…
What has been your highlight at Fraunhofer IAF so far?
It’s probably still coming up: This May, I will attend the New Diamond and Nano Carbons Conference (NDNC) in Shizuoka, Japan. My presentation on »Formation of mono-sized diamond nanoparticles on silicon dioxide surfaces« was accepted for the conference agenda. It will be my first presentation on a big conference as a Fraunhofer employee, so that’s quite exciting.
How would you describe Fraunhofer IAF in three words?
Idea – technology – innovation
Would you tell us your favorite spot in Freiburg?
I like the restaurant »Augustiner«. I often go there to watch important soccer matches.
What would you like to achieve in future in private life or work-related?
Right now, I have totally nothing I want to change or achieve, because I’m already very much enjoying my life. I just want to continue this situation as long as possible. Even if nothing more would be achieved, I would be absolutely content because I’m simply enjoying the process to achieve the goal.
More information on the New Diamond and Nano Carbons Conference, 24th – 28th May 2015 in Shizuoka: