Michel Peters, HFML Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Being a technician at a high field magnet laboratory involves very diverse tasks. About half of my time I help researchers with building up all kinds of different experimental set-ups and preparing inserts for the magnets. I also check the infrastructure for them, such as the liquid helium stock for cooling the experiments.
Another big part of my work is to make designs and drawings for parts of the experimental set-ups. This involves meetings with researchers to find out what they want, brainstorms to think of the best way to accomplish that and, in the end, ordering the parts we need and building the device.
I really like the interaction with so many people. Not only with the researchers in this lab, but also with a lot of guests that come to our facility for specific experiments. It is a challenge to combine our and their knowledge and expertise to get the best experimental set-up. At first I often think their requests are impossible, but in the end I am always able to solve the puzzle. The ideas come to mind at crazy times, during a bike ride or in the middle of the night.
When I started working here in March 2013 I was really impressed by the huge machinery that is needed for these very small samples. I know a lot about scientific instruments, because I also worked at the instrument workshop of Radboud University Nijmegen, but these set-ups are all very specific. As there are only a few laboratories in the world that perform such experiments, you have to design almost everything yourself. Fortunately, due to the EMFL collaboration, we have the possibility to exchange ideas with colleagues from other European laboratories. I hope I can find the time to visit them soon and get some new inspiration.