VARIMED will focus on the development of a piezoelectric 2D varifocal quasistatic micro mirrors for a compact endoscope probe design. It is a joint project between three Research Units at SAL and therefore benefits from the expertise of three different fields. Having won this Early Career Call, a competition initiated by SAL CTO Bruno Clerckx, is a great opportunity for Pooja, Sara and Madeleine to gain experience in an early stage of their careers as scientists and researchers.

Insights from Photonic Systems: Pooja Thakkar

Pooja Thakkar from Photonic Systems will focus on defining the requirements of micro mirrors for the application, verifying the concept from optical simulation and developing an optical testbench for two photon/multiphoton microscopy. She has a master’s degree in Micro and Nano Systems from TU Chemnitz. While pursuing her master’s thesis here at SAL, Pooja worked on the characterization of thermal emitters and waveguides for integrated photonic carbon dioxide gas sensors. She is now a Junior Scientist at SAL and focuses her research on micromirrors, characterizing and studying the mode actuation and performance of the mirrors, the effects of dynamic behavior on image resolution, and performing wavefront analysis. “Obtaining the fund for the new project VARIMED is a great opportunity for me to learn and grow in the direction of optical imaging and spectroscopy,” says Pooja.

Mastermind behind the development process of micromirrors: Sara Guerreiro

Joining the project from the Research Unit Piezoelectric Microsystems, Sara Guerreiro will focus on the complete development process of a micromirror for the specific application of the project. “I’m sure this project will push me even further, challenge me to be creative and make me completely understand the physics behind the device!”, she states.

Sara started working at SAL in September of 2021 as a master's student with a focus on the characterization of laser diodes and micromirrors for a pico-projector for automotive applications. Having finished her master’s, she continued her work at SAL as a Junior Scientist. Currently, Sara’s focus is on the process of developing micromirrors such as designing, simulation, fabrication, and characterization. To achieve her goals and to extend her knowledge, she recently applied to the University of Tokyo where Sara will spend time abroad on a Ph.D. stay next year.

Bringing in valuable international experience: Madeleine Petschnigg

“My goal is to achieve a deeper grasp of the factors that control the long-term stability, which facilitates the advancement of new devices with enhanced performance,” says Madeleine Petschnigg from Thin Film Technologies. Her focus lies in understanding and overcoming material related issues during fabrication and utilization of the piezoelectric micro device to ensure a reliable performance over its entire lifetime. After finishing her master studies at TU Vienna in Technical Chemistry, Madeleine joined SAL as a Junior Scientist and started her Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering at Pennsylvania State University, where she spent a research stay abroad. In her work she focuses on piezo and ferroelectric thin film materials, more specifically PZT, for micro electromechanical systems (MEMS).

Prof. Susan Trolier-McKinstry, Madeleine’s Ph.D. supervisor at Penn State shared her excitement about the VARIMED project with us: “I am delighted to be working with SAL’s VARIMED team through Madeleine. Madeleine is completing her PhD degree off site at Pennsylvania State University, under my supervision.  The VARIMED program will support Madeleine’s progress towards a degree and will help establish essential processes for SAL in the area of piezoelectric microelectromechanical systems.”