Meet our Alumni: an interview with Dominik Irber

Meet our Alumni: an interview with Dominik Irber

Dominik Irber finished his PhD at TUM in 2021 and is now a Project Leader at attocube systems. In this interview, Dominik tells us about his current job, shares some experiences from his time as doctoral student and what he enjoyed most about being part of IMPRS-QST.

-   In which IMPRS-QST group did you do your PhD and when did you graduate?

I did my PhD in the group of Friedemann Reinhard and graduated in early summer 2021. This group’s main focus is quantum sensing with nitrogen-vacancy (NV) centers in diamond. Around the time I graduated, the whole group moved to Rostock. 

-   Did you take some free time or do something special right after finishing your PhD?

I submitted my thesis on a Friday and started to work at attocube the very next Monday. The first weeks of work were refreshing in an exciting way after the long period of thesis-writing. Nevertheless, I would recommend taking some days/weeks off to refresh your brain in a more relaxed way.

-   What were your initial career plans when you started your PhD?

I always planned to work in industry in the long run. On the one hand, I prefer to work on aspects that will be part of a product, which hopefully helps other people in one or the other way. On the other hand, I do not like the academic system with respect to career.

-   How did these plans evolve? What did you do after finishing your PhD and why did you choose this path?

Now I work at attocube, a midsize company that sells devices used in research, like nanopositioners and cryostats. Quite unexpectedly, I had the chance to work in industry with the same physical system I have dealt with during my PhD - NV centers in diamond.

-   Could you share something particularly exciting and interesting about your current position/research?

Working in a midsize company gives me the chance to experience all aspects of introducing a new product to the market. From technical development via production to marketing.

-   From your experience, how are the career opportunities for PhD graduates in QST, both in and outside of academia?

As I am still at an early stage after finishing my PhD, I focus on job opportunities and not long-term career opportunities: I have the feeling that now it is a good time to work in the field of quantum science. Besides the hyped topic of quantum computing, other areas like quantum sensing are advancing and growing a lot, too, with the benefit of several job opportunities. Outside academia, this ranges from start-ups to departments in large companies.

-   Tell us about your experience at IMPRS-QST. What did you like most about the graduate school?

I enjoyed meeting inspiring people who work in different yet similar fields of research. Meeting these people goes along with getting to know implementations/instrumentations for other quantum systems on a low level, i.e. not only hearing talks about how wonderful everything is, but also seeing the everyday struggles that are inherent to probably all systems. Besides the technical aspects, I developed a first network with these people, and friendships developed.

-   Can you list three important skills that you learned during your PhD/in the graduate school which were useful when applying for positions (and now in your current position)?

1. Being in a graduate school with people from a variety of backgrounds: Breaking down complex things.

2. The classic: A PhD strengthens your frustration tolerance.

3. Not a skill but a very basic thing: Enjoying phone calls with “strangers” as they are often more efficient than long email conversations.

- What advice would you give to somebody just starting their PhD?

Prepare for undergoing phases of frustration. Because of this, I think that it is essential to find a field of research where you see some meaning, and for which you can imagine to develop passion. This helps immensely to keep up your motivation when it seems that you are stuck. This “meaning” does not need to be ‘With my research I will save the world’; a part of my meaning/motivation was the fact that I see NV centers - the system I have dealt with - to be applied in products in the near future; and that my research might improve the understanding of NV centers.

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