My Stem Story

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Feng Yaqing from China

The story I want to share with you started from the first day I entered the lab. I was astonished by the equipment because they were so huge and they reminded me of the giant robots that appeared in sci-fi movies. My seniors comforted me that handling these equipment would just be a matter of time and it was much easier than I thought it would be. I admit these words really encouraged me and I devoted most of my time and energy to learning it. I read the instructions of the equipment in the lab and learned carefully from my seniors. However, operating those “giants” turned out to be not only tough but also tricky. Take the equipment of laser-MBE as an example. In our researching group, we obtained the high-quality thin films by using the laser-MBE which is the abbreviation of laser molecular beam epitexy. After 3 months of learning, I began growing thin films on my own. I was pretty sure I followed the exact steps my seniors told me but I failed for many unexpected reasons. I used the word “unexpected” because every part of the “giant” would crush down and I had to call my seniors for help. In most cases, the “giant” would return back to normal immediately when they came. Similar situations happened and I was almost beat. I spent 2 months on the laser-MBE and various problems appeared every day. Seniors gave me a “lovely” name, “YiQiShaShou”, which means equipment killer, for everything in the lab would stop working when I used them. I felt confused and innocent since I was never a naughty girl and I always followed the right steps. During that time, I turned to many people for help and I really wanted to know the reasons. Most of them gave me the same answer: equipment are like little shy girls, they need time to know you as well. You need to be patient and tender. In the beginning, I thought they were just kidding since those “giants” are made of cold steel, how come they have feelings like human being. I didn't accept this concept that equipment have feelings, but I decided to have more patience when problems occurred and regarded it as a process of gaining experiences. “Miracles” happened when a more patient me cooperated with those “giants”. Fewer problems appeared and they behaved normally as if I were one of my seniors. By the end of that term, the engineer of the laser-MBE came for software update. I told him my experience and his answer was more interesting, “you should treat it as your baby, he needs to be taken good care of”.

To be honest, I still couldn't understand why time is necessary for an equipment to adapt to a “stranger” and “behaves normally” in front of him. But in this process I became more patient, calm and organized in order to be in a good relationship with those “giants”. Their good performance adds a sense of achievement and pleasure to my life in the lab. Now I am responsible for the maintenance of two equipment, namely the Laser-MBE and PPMS, which are two key “giants” in our lab. Problems happen occasionally but solving them make me feel like I were a super girl. I begin enjoying my life in the lab where I can design thin films with promising properties and build a special relationship with those “emotional giants”. Now I would advise my juniors the same attitude towards equipment, “be nice and patient, and treat them as your shy sisters”.