My name is Sofia Rahiminejad. I came to The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, California in the end of September 2017, with three bags and five days to find an apartment. I did not know what to expect from Pasadena or Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) where I will be conducting the majority of my postdoc.
I came with the ambition to learn from the people doing high-end research when it comes to high frequency technology and microsystems. JPL and NASA have had a long time goal of exploring heavenly bodies in the search for water and life. Submillimeter-wave spectrometer and radiometer instruments provide essential information for remotely studying atmospheric composition and measuring the surface properties of cold bodies. To do this they need technology that can operate at high frequencies (550 GHZ) and also be small, compact and lightweight to be able to fit on a space mission. This means that they have the resources to develop technology with little to no consideration of mass-producibility and keeping the cost down. Therefore, it is very exciting to do this kind of research with them.
I have had the opportunity to work on many different projects involving both MEMS (micro-electrical-mechanical systems) for RF applications and silicon micromachining of high frequency components in their cleanroom facilities.
This opportunity has given me the possibility to broaden myself as a researcher. For the first time, I have done every part of a research project from simulating and designing the device to fabricating it in the cleanroom and in the end measure its performance in the lab. I have gone outside my comfort zone being mostly involved in developing the process to simulating a device on my own.
I have also used my time to meet the research community, including going to ISSTT (International Symposium on Space and Terahertz Technology). I have been a strong advocate for Chalmers University of Technology and making new connections every day.
In the end I managed to find an apartment within three days and I have made many new friends and colleagues both at Caltech and JPL, which I will stay in contact with both professionally and personally even after leaving California.
Text: Sofia Rahiminejad