Interview: Florian Haupt
How and when did you join Zurich Instruments?
I joined Zurich Instruments in 2014. Before that, I studied physics at ETH Zurich and went to UCSB for my master’s thesis. When the financial crisis of 2008 struck the State of California I decided to return to Switzerland for a PhD in Prof. Imamoglu’s group. I worked on transmission spectroscopy of self-assembled quantum dots, and we used lock-in amplifiers for our measurements. During my PhD, we thought of buying a Zurich Instruments lock-in amplifier but eventually purchased additional SRS ones. This was unfortunate, as the lock-in amplifier measurement quality limited me.
After my PhD I looked for a job in industry. Zurich Instruments was one of the spin-offs that I saw growing during my time at ETH. I noticed that Zurich Instruments had a Test Engineering position open and thought that it would be a good fit: I could see a connection with physics research, where you approach systems as black boxes by probing them and measuring the output which you can then model to gain further understanding.
What does your job look like, and what is the most important aspect of it?
My role expanded over time, and I am now a Hardware Design Engineer/Test Engineer in the Hardware team. When I started as a Test Engineer, I helped ensure that Zurich Instruments products were calibrated for the market and assisted production in preparing the instruments to a predefined quality level. In this context, the main task is to investigate device failure ex-factory or returns from customers, finding a solution for the reported issues.
My first project was to bring the UHFLI to a mature state for the production team, but my first full-development hardware design project was the MFLI Lock-in Amplifier. It is rewarding to know that our products enable physics research and that the limitations I suffered from have been largely removed thanks to the design of our lock-in amplifiers.
I learned my product design skills on the job, and I currently focus on radio-frequency (RF) hardware design by working on input analog design. Dealing with RF is another level of challenge where my physics background helps me.
What drives me is the goal of constant quality improvement and development as well as the possibility to learn new skills on the job. I also draw my motivation and life-long learning inspiration from the way we work, where ideas can be implemented without being limited by lengthy processes. This is remarkable because the company has been growing from a 20-employee start-up to a medium-sized company with almost 100 people.
What is the most memorable Zurich Instruments moment that stayed with you?
I vividly remember the first official MFLI product shipment to customers: my colleague Adeline was packing the instrument and Flavio, a co-founder of Zurich Instruments, filmed with his camera while we waited for the shipping company to arrive. We wrote a blog post about the shipment and celebrated with a huge apero afterwards.
There are many more great moments and social events such as the “release parties”, which make Zurich Instruments not only a workplace but also a fun place to be.
How do you spend your free time?
When I don’t work I take care of my three kids. We have twin boys and their older brother, which makes for an interesting family dynamics. At the moment I work at 80%, which is another advantage of working for this company. This arrangement allows me to have more time with my family.
I also practice many sports. I am naturally a good swimmer, and then I got into biking and running which I don’t like as much – and so ended up in triathlon. I enjoy mountain biking, ski touring and hiking too.