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An International PhD via Thinface

02/06/2018 | Planet research | FoE Advanced Materials Science

By Birgit Baustädter

In the last four years, 14 young scientists worked in the field of advanced materials across Europe in the training network Thinface and are now completing their cross-border doctoral degrees.

The fundamental idea of the Thinface training network was to promote research into sustainable, more efficient and economical energy solutions.
Joint research and international collaboration are the main cornerstones on which the work which is intensively promoted by TU Graz is built. Recently a Europewide project was brought to a successful conclusion with the centrestage involvement of TU Graz’s Institute of Solid State Physics. Thinface is a European training network which was initiated by the European research network PCAM (Physics and Chemistry of Advanced Materials).  Thinface enabled 14 young scientists from all over the world to work together on a topic in a multidisciplinary way and to each further their own PhD thesis at a European university. The programme was funded by the EU funding scheme Marie Sklodowska¬Curie Actions. Two of these aspiring scientists have since taken up their jobs at TU Graz.

Sustainable energy solutions

The fundamental idea of the Thinface training network was to promote research into sustainable, more efficient and economical energy solutions. The research activities focused on novel ideas and techniques in the field of new energy systems and hybrid photovoltaics. Research was conducted in five areas of work – starting from the basics and moving towards production and stability. But the students were not limited to their own research areas. A key element of the training programme was international mobility and specialized training of the scientists. To this end the students spent much time at one of the partner universities or partner companies. In other European countries to carry out research outside their own particular research areas. “I have a background in materials modelling and simulation – but during my six months at the University of Southern Denmark in Sønderborg I turned my attention towards device fabrication,” explains Shashank Harivyasi.
Shashank Harivyasi did his master's thesis in Graz and continued his PhD with the training network Thinface.
He is one of two international students who had been given a doctoral place at TU Graz through the programme. He did his masters’s studies at Amity Institute of Nanotechnology in Uttar Pradesh, India, and he concluded them by conducting research for his master’s thesis at TU Graz. He then continued the research by successfully applying for one of the Thinface¬associated PhD positions at Graz. “For my master’s thesis I particularly sought researchers in this field and came across Egbert Zojer,” explains the researcher. “This is a very unusual way to go about it. Usually students at the master’s level make their choice based on the name of their future host university, and only at the postdoc level seek out researchers which suit their field. I was impressed by Shashank doing that differently,” explained Egbert Zojer, supervisor of Shashank Harivyasi’s master’s and doctoral theses and researcher at TU Graz’s Institute of Solid State Physics. In addition to TU Graz, the Thinface-network also includes the University of Southern Denmark (three students), TU Dresden (one student), Université Pierre et Marie Curie (one student), Università Degli Studi di Milano¬Bicocca (two students), Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (two students), Abengoa Research (one student) and CIC nanoGune (two students). There was also support from Synchrotron SOLEIL and the five companies Novaled, Plasmore, Pirelli, Graphenea S.A. and Mecwins.
Egbert Zojer is part of the PCAM network and helped to initiate the Thinface project.

International exchange

Shashank Harivyasi also acted as a representative of the PhD students, championed their interests in the steering group of the network and helped organising the final summer school. “The network worked amazingly,” says the delighted physicist. “We had many opportunities to meet each other, to get to know new research communities and make contacts with other research institutes.” If students take an exam at another European institute, in addition to their PhD they can receive an international research certificate for their pan-European experience from the University of Milano-Bicocca. 

Academic output

On top of the possibility for students to evolve personally, the academic output of the 14 doctoral students is not to be ignored. So far this includes 38 publications, two patents and two poster awards. “In the next few years this will probably amount to some 50 publications altogether. We’re currently waiting for several papers as well as jointly published books,” explains Shashank Harivyasi.

This research project is attributed to the Field of Expertise "Advanced Materials Science", one of TU Graz' five strategic areas of research.
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Egbert ZOJER
Ao.Univ.-Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Dr.techn.
Institute of Solid State Physics
Petersgasse 16/III | 8010 Graz
Phone: +43 316 873 8475