Ever since the start of 6th grade I started to develop a greater interest in technology and science. So when one of my friends told me about a project, that their sister was once part of, whose goal is to get more girls invested in IT and science and provides the opportunity of a summer job at the Graz University of Technology without much previous knowledge, I was immediately on board. Because despite finding such topics quite fascinating, I had had only one year of proper physics, chemistry as well as IT lessons and did not know much more than the basics. So, when initially faced with the fact that the place I would be working at this summer was the Institute of Solid State Physics I was worried if I had enough understanding of the subjects to do my task adequately. But I needn’t have been nervous. Once I arrived there on my first day the professors, Anna Coclite and Francesco Greco, explained what I would be doing in detail and went over anything important again before each step.
The plan was to make a humidity sensor out of two thin polymer layers. The first, passive layer is made of PDMS (Polydimethylsiloxane) which is spin-coated onto a plastic disc and serves as a stable component. The second, active layer is deposited on top of the first one with the help of a CVD (Chemical Vapor Deposition) reactor and is only 300 to 400 nanometres thick. The passive layer is always made of PDMS, however different polymers are used as an active layer to find out which works in the most similar way to our desired goal. The resulting bilayer is then cut into the shapes of flowers and petals, that I had designed beforehand, and carefully peeled off the plastic disc. After finishing the making process, the only thing left to do was to test if our experiment had been a success.
The experiment was a success – the pedals reacted exaclty as we expected.
Personally, I think it was a great experience as well as a definite improvement in comparison to the common summer jobs of a student my age. I would recommend applying to anyone, whether they are complete science and computer nerds or just not sure what they want to do with their future yet and trying to find the right thing.