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Maarten van Zalk (promotion date: 13 November 2009)

In between matters, Interfaces in complex oxides

Promotion date: 13. November 2009

Promotor: Prof. Dr. Ir. Hans Hilgenkamp

Complex oxides are emerging as a versatile class of materials, exhibiting a wide variety of properties. Possibilities are studied to tune and improve interface properties and to stabilize novel phases at the interface. A number of different cases has been investigated. These identify strain, charge transfer, interplay between different kinds of magnetic ordering, stray fields, and structural, as well as electronic reconstructions, are factors influencing oxide behavior at the interface, which enable the manipulation of a wide range of phenomena.

Where did you conduct your investigations?

Mainly in our own labs, but I also worked closely together with the High Field Magnet Laboratory in Nijmegen, for example studying conductivity properties of interfaces between isolating materials which are highly dependent of magnetic field. Because the equipment used, asks a lot of electric energy, the experiments were performed at night. We worked on the experiments with a team of researchers. Preparing and conducting experiments were the main parts of my thesis project.

In these four years, how did you develop as a researcher?

I learned that the social aspect of research is a very important part of the job. Experimental physics is sometimes less objective as one would expect an exact science to be. It is very important not only to develop and present your ideas, but also to gain support for the experiments you want to carry out. You really have to convince your fellow-scientists to support your line of research, and organize the experiments together with experts in the laboratory. Also the collaboration with graduates, I liked very much.

And, also important, is to make good observations, and recognize what you really can observe in the data presented to you. This can lead to new ideas, whereas spending too much time analyzing, though necessary still, can distract from the good opportunities presented to you in the real data. Experimental physics is the art of observing.

What are your future plans?

In the Condensed Matter Physics and Devices group, I will stay active as a post-doc for a while. The research I worked on will be carried further, as well in Twente as in Nijmegen, in a FOM-programme.

My own future as a researcher remains open still. Perhaps I will continue further investigations on this topic. In any case, I would like to be part of a strong multidisciplinary team of researchers, be it as an academic or in an industrial setting.