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Pardeep Kumar Thakur is a Senior Support Scientist on the Surface and Interface Structural Analysis beamline, I09. Pardeep joined Diamond four years ago from the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF). His job on I09 is very varied, providing assistance to other beamline staff, commissioning new systems, and supporting users on the beamline.
Pardeep, what brought you to Diamond? How did you come to work here?
I always wanted to be a scientist. I grew up in Himachal Pradesh in India and as a child I was curious to understand how God can be everywhere. I turned to science to try to find the answer! At school I was inspired by my science teachers. Physics was always my favourite. Following a Masters in Physics at Panjab University, Chandigarh, I embarked on a PhD developing an experimental setup for material science investigations using nuclear techniques at the Inter-University Accelerator Centre, New Delhi. It was during this time that I became pretty sure I would follow a career in synchrotron science.
During my first post-doctoral training post at Pohang Light Source, South Korea, I acquired in-depth knowledge of R&D activities in X-ray absorption and emission spectroscopy. Later I received a lot more exposure to the synchrotron world during my second post-doc at the ESRF. During my time there, an opportunity arose to work at Diamond and I jumped at the chance.
What do you do here, and how does your experience help?
I am working as a Senior Support Scientist on beamline I09. I assist the other beamline staff in the development, assembly, installation, and maintenance of a range of equipment and systems on the beamline end stations, including testing and commissioning. I also work with other scientific and technical staff to produce designs for new systems, equipment and processes. In addition, I serve as a local contact to the users and for other in-house research activities.
With regards to experience, the scientists at the ESRF and their fantastically diverse minds taught me all the essentials of research life. Coming to Diamond with 13+ years of research experience in experimental condensed matter physics allowed me to adjust to the working culture of the beamline and identify what is needed and expected from me.
What’s the big project you’re working on at the moment?
I09 is commissioned to be an X-ray facility for studying atomic structures and electronic properties of the surfaces and interfaces of a wide variety of materials. A unique feature of the beamline is that it will allow sample characterisation with both hard and soft X-rays. To achieve this goal, two parallel branch lines that are optimised respectively for the two energy ranges have been built to merge at the end station. It is here that one can apply two or more methods, using the two different wavelengths, to the same sample with one surface preparation.
What’s your favourite thing about working at Diamond?
To be honest, it is the diversity of the expertise here. Diamond provides a constant challenge in addressing exciting, unanswered questions, as well as an opportunity to meet a wide range of academics from around the world, which can lead to fantastic research collaborations. I enjoy meeting the assorted people working or visiting here; from scientists, to engineers, to students and the general public. It is great to see that Diamond is helping students and early-career researchers to launch their own careers.
What advice would you give someone wanting to get involved in your field?
In order to be a successful Support Scientist at Diamond, you will need to read a lot of technical reports and papers to become familiar with your beamline of interest, and to keep up to date with the latest developments. You may find yourself spending over half of your time reading, especially in the beginning. It is essential that you learn to cope with criticism, and sometimes even actively seek it out. Be realistic about what you can accomplish, and try to concentrate on giving yourself positive feedback for the tasks you do complete, instead of negative feedback for those you don’t.
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