Ipsita Das | Meet the MCQSTians: In this series, we regularly feature members of the MCQST community and offer insights into their research and career.
"Identifying what truly excites you and persevering with patience is crucial. In research, setbacks are common, and learning from failures is essential."
Dr. Ipsita Das earned both her Bachelor's and Master's degrees in physics from Jadavpur University in Kolkata, India. Her journey into the world of research began at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in Mumbai, where she worked as a research fellow in Prof. Mandar Deshmukh's lab, specializing in experimental condensed matter physics. Following a two-year stay at TIFR, Ipsita joined Prof. Dmitri K. Efetov's group at ICFO - The Institute of Photonic Sciences. After successfully defending her thesis in May 2023, she has continued her scientific pursuits as a MCQST Distinguished Postdoc in the Efetov group. Ipsita's fascination with physics has always driven her research, particularly in the realm of two-dimensional materials. Currently, she dedicates her efforts to developing and implementing innovative techniques to enhance our understanding of electron behavior in these materials.
In the following interview, Ipsita shares insights into her current research, her enduring passion for science, and valuable advice for those embarking on their research careers.
Can you briefly explain your research project?
I am developing an innovative local probe technique to investigate electrons in two dimensions, utilizing a distinctive van der Waals material-based system. This technique employs a probe crafted from two-dimensional materials to scan the surface of another material, enabling the study of its band structure through electron tunneling from the tip to the sample. This approach offers a versatile avenue for research, providing direct insights into low-energy band structures, the impact of strain, and other electronic properties.
Describe your day-to-day work. What keeps you excited to keep working on your project each day?
I specialize in experimental work, dedicating a significant portion of my time to laboratory activities. Fabricating a magic angle twisted bilayer graphene device is a meticulous process that demands considerable time investment, often leading me to spend extended hours in the cleanroom. After successfully fabricating a high-quality device, my focus shifts to precise measurements conducted at millikelvin temperatures and in high magnetic fields. Subsequently, a substantial portion of my efforts is dedicated to the thorough analysis and comprehension of the gathered data, and finally writing a paper.
Finding incremental successes in unraveling the intricacies of a system is truly exciting. Moreover, the presence of a supportive group of colleagues serves as a constant source of motivation, making each day at work a rewarding experience.
"The presence of a supportive group of colleagues serves as a constant source of motivation, making each day at work a rewarding experience."
Did you always want to be a (quantum) scientist when you were younger? Moreover, if you weren't a scientist, what do you think you would be doing now?
I harbored dreams of becoming an astronaut during my middle school years. However, my fascination with relativity and quantum mechanics during my Bachelor's studies redirected my aspirations towards a research career in condensed matter physics, starting from my Master's days. I am not sure what could have been an alternative career for me if I were not a scientist; perhaps I would have been a professional painter.
What drew you to Munich and MCQST?
Towards the end of my PhD, my group moved from Spain to here in LMU, Munich. As I wanted to continue some of my unfinished project work, I came to Munich and applied for the excellent opportunity offered by MCQST.
Research often involves facing challenges and setbacks. Can you share a specific challenge you've encountered and how you overcame it?
I started my PhD in a new group and in an almost empty lab. It was challenging since I had to install different setups in the lab while working towards a particular project. However, it also helped me learn a lot and have better insights.
What advice would you give to other young researchers who are just starting their academic or scientific careers?
Identifying what truly excites you and persevering with patience is crucial. In research, setbacks are common, and learning from failures is essential. Additionally, I also think that it is important to work in a collaborative environment with supportive colleagues/mentors.