»Nobody here thinks within fixed borders – that’s what makes work interesting!«

»Nobody here thinks within fixed borders – that’s what makes work interesting!«
© Photo Fraunhofer IAF

PhD student Thomas Gerrer reports on his work at Fraunhofer IAF

Physics, microsystems engineering or electrical engineering – Fraunhofer IAF offers graduates of different subjects the opportunity to pursue a scientific career within the scope of a PhD project. But what are the young scientists researching on? Which aspects motivate them and who are the persons behind it? Our PhD students present themselves in a staff-interview. For Thomas Gerrer, »it is the great variety of competencies and the thus resulting opportunities for multidisciplinary research that fascinates me about the work at Fraunhofer IAF«.

Since September 2014, Thomas Gerrer (26 years), graduate of the master-course of microsystems engineering at the University of Freiburg, works at Fraunhofer IAF to research on his PhD project in the field of power electronics.

In which research area and which task are you researching on?

For my PhD project, I contribute to the development of gallium-nitride-based power electronics in connection with diamond. So far, the performance and reliability of GaN-based power electronic devices is limited by the generation of increasing temperatures at high output rates. Our aim is to counteract this effect by integrating a well conductive heat sink on the hot spot of the device – diamond offers ideal preconditions due to its high heat conductivity. This is why it is our aim to transfer GaN-based transistors from the original substrate silicon on the new substrate material diamond.

What’s the duration of this research project?

The project I just described will run for one more year. For my PhD, I will be researching in this field for the period of three years.

What brought you to Fraunhofer IAF and how did you find this topic for your PhD?

A friend of mine who works at the institute for microsystems engineering (IMTEK) recommended the Fraunhofer Institutes in Freiburg to me, as they deal with interesting matters. To be honest, I did not have the idea of working at Fraunhofer IAF and on this subject in the first place, as I had mainly specialized on topics in the field of optics during my master thesis. But it was my aim to do further research before starting my career in the industries, in order to get to know new technologies and contribute to further developments. I received a very friendly and open reply from Professor Ambacher to my inquiry at Fraunhofer IAF. Only a short time later, I was invited for a first informative meeting with the group leader. With some technical literature I tried to get familiar with the topic, so that I could provide some basic knowledge of the subject. It all worked out quite well and since a few months I’m already in the middle of the subject.

Which aspects motivate you for the research work at Fraunhofer? What fascinates you?

Here at Fraunhofer IAf, especially, I like the fact that there are so many different opportunities. There are no limits to new ideas or questions that cover various disciplines or subjects. You can ask questions, every area offers the chance for comprehensive research and for ‘trials’ – in research, nobody thinks within fixed borders. That’s what makes the work interesting!

According to your opinion, what are advantages of the work at Fraunhofer IAF?

It is exactly this great variety of competencies and the thus resulting opportunities for multidisciplinary research that motivates me to work at Fraunhofer IAF.  And of course the good work climate between the colleagues!

A great advantage is the equipment and the task sharing: whenever you need a certain equipment or device, you co-operate with external service providers or with in-house experts, who deliver the required item. That allows to work on the actual research task much more efficiently and to commonly reach good results. There are experts for each task. In the end, everybody can benefit from this.

So far, what was your ‘highlight’ at Fraunhofer IAF?

My personal highlight so far certainly was my employment here at Fraunhofer IAF. And of course my colleagues!

How would you describe Fraunhofer IAF in three key words?

Social, multi-facetted, interesting

What are your aims for the future – in professional, or also in your private life?

My career-related goal is engaging in an interesting and diverse work, which will allow combining job and family, so that I will also be able to spend time with my family.
Besides job and family, a further aim is to one day also commit to a political position.

Would you let us know your favorite place in Freiburg?

At home! I like to come home after work and I feel very comfortable there.

Interviews with other IAF employees