These are challenging times. Over the past few weeks, we had to get used to measures that heavily restrict our everyday life, our jobs and our free time. Corona has shown us the unpleasant aspects of our connected and globalized world – but it also showed us how important research and innovation is in times like these. While fully supporting the government's regulations and restrictions, SAL keeps on working on new and innovative technologies to tackle several challenges of the 21st century. 

You can’t access a cleanroom with just a facemask anyways

While most of our colleagues work from home, some also hold down the fort at our offices and labs. Our researchers who work in the cleanroom are used to more protective measures anyways. Cleanrooms are designed to maintain an extremely low number of particles, such as dust etc. They are classified according to the cleanliness level of the air inside. In order to work in our cleanroom in Villach, our researchers have to wear cleanroom suits and shoes, face masks, hairnets and gloves – just imagine we would all have to go to the supermarket like that. Mohssen Moridi, Head of Research Unit Microsystem Technologies, works in the cleanroom. For him, work has not changed much, he can still do his research: “It’s just a little quieter in the office”.

I don’t need IT equipment from work, but I’ll pick up my chair soon

Many of our researchers don’t necessarily need a lab to continue with their research. All they need is their mind. And a computer. And their comfortable work chair. Herbert Hackl, scientist in the research unit Electromagnetic Compatibility & Coexistence (EMCC), already has plans to steal his chair from work, which is more comfortable than the one he has at home. He is using this time to take care of tasks that are often neglected during a more stressful time. Furthermore, he enjoys the fact that industrial partners have more time to talk on the phone now: “It’s a good time for socializing”, Herbert says. Also, he and his team plan to go on a weeks-long measuring-trip once they can go back to the lab. That sounds like something you would enjoy? Then check out our open positions and maybe you can go on a fun lab-trip soon!

Our Team is working from Villach and Graz, so we’re used to phone calls

There are 3 SAL locations in Graz, Villach and Linz. In Graz, we just moved into our new headquarter in the EBS center on the TU Graz grounds at Inffeldgasse. We couldn’t properly celebrate the move due to the situation because crisis mode trumps party mode. In general, the offices, labs and coffee kitchens at all our locations are quieter these days.

Some of our teams span across locations –our Power Electronics team, for instance, works from Graz and Villach: “We are used to calling each other almost every day and discuss our next steps in online meetings”, Christian Mentin, scientist in the Power Electronics division, explains. He is doing home office (with a nice lake view) and appreciates the extra time he has for his research now that he doesn’t have to drive anywhere: “A lot of work within Power Electronics is done within simulations and designs using CAD tools, the lab fun is actually missing but there are so many research opportunities you can now dig into!” He is currently working on simulations and prototype design for our Tiny Power Box project.

Here’s why research is important in a time of crisis

Just like our entire SAL family, our team in Linz is very diverse in age, gender, nationality and school of thoughts. Elham Rahimi-Takami, who works in the RF Architecture & Design Unit in Linz, continues working on designing Power Amplifiers / Transmitters for beyond 5G applications –she works from home now but keeps up with her team members through regular online meetings where they exchange thoughts and updates on their ongoing project. “Since we need to reach the project deadlines, time is precious”, Elham knows. “During the pandemic we have to stay at home, nonetheless, we can manage great parts of our tasks remotely.” You want to learn more about our team in Linz? Then check out this video.

Elham’s colleague Abouzar Hamidipour, who also works in RF Systems in Linz, is currently doing research on finding novel radio frequency circuit and system solutions for emerging 6G applications. As he is working on modelling, simulation and design, home office is not a problem. Regular exchange with his teammates is needed, though. So why is it important to keep doing research in a time of crisis? Abouzar says it is because research is the “ultimate tool to predict and to deal with such a crisis. More importantly, it enables us to prevent similar crisis in the future”.

Even if we only see our colleagues virtually or if we have to keep our distance at the office: Here at SAL, we continue to work on innovation. And some of us work on plans to steal the office chair. Innovative plans.

By the way, if you need a break from work right now, we have more videos here. And since we’re at it: You can also subscribe to our Science & Stories newsletter here.