Read about life as a researcher at Sharp
People at Sharp Laboratories of Europe come from many countries, have a range of technical backgrounds and certainly have different approaches to their work. We are united by a desire to see our technology in products that customers enjoy using.
Some people enjoy working very closely with our colleagues from marketing and manufacturing in Japan. They get to understand exactly what technology will give us a lead in the market. Getting the definition of the project right is an essential step to success. They also manage the transfer of our research into production. This means that they get to see the incredible skill of our manufacturing engineers who turn our laboratory concepts into high volume products.
Some people enjoy working on research which is further from the market. They have the incredible challenge of starting with a blank sheet of paper and asking “How can we create a new technology platform that will enable a family of novel products?” They spend more time talking to our partners in universities and develop creativity techniques. They concentrate on generating patents which will give Sharp an advantage.
We also have a very talented support team who continually work to increase the efficency of our research. Their flexibility is key to our success because nothing we do is routine.
I joined Sharp straight after university, having completed a 4 year degree to earn an MPhys. At the time I knew I was still interested in science and technology but I didn’t want to stay within the university environment. I joined Sharp on the graduate scheme and in my first year completed projects in LED lighting, new function touchscreens, novel laser and simulation of electronic components.I subsequently joined the Systems Devices group where I continue to work. I now support the development of laser diodes produced by the Electronics Devices business unit within Sharp. My work is a combination of reviewing scientific publications, analysing measured data and developing physics based simulations. By understanding the operation of laser diodes deeply and performing simulation experiments I can suggest changes in the structure and layout which improve the overall performance. When we find a new design or a new way of making something we protect our work by patenting it.
Due to the fast paced nature of the project I work closely with Japanese colleagues who mass produce laser diodes in their factory near Hiroshima in southern Japan. This is mainly by VoIP or video conference but also includes visits to the factory where I can explain my results and ideas in detail and discuss topics which are more difficult to communicate remotely. Having Japanese lessons at SLE helps greatly when travelling but I am by no means fluent! Luckily our Japanese colleagues speak good English!
The atmosphere at SLE is always energetic. Our colleagues come from a diverse range of STEM backgrounds including electronics, physics, chemistry, engineering and maths. Though everyone develops their own areas of expertise we can all rely on an underlying generalist knowledge which allows us to work on projects which combine different areas of science. For example one project in our group involved using a laser to measure concentrations of ions in water through absorption. In this case the experiments required physics, chemistry and electronics skills, with a bit of plumbing too!
Most of the projects at SLE are solving technological problems which have not been addressed before, or applying new discoveries science to existing technology. As a result you are likely to find yourself attempting to do something that nobody has ever done before, and which may not even be possible. Being able to think creatively when it comes to approaching these projects is key; when brain storming a new project there is no such thing as a bad idea!
Being able to be involved in a wide range of projects including those outside your natural area of expertise are great for developing knowledge and understanding in new technology areas. SLE is very supportive when it comes to personal development and courses are made available internally and externally to aid this. You will also attend and maybe even present at conferences and other professional meetings.
Given the early stage nature of our work we work to relatively long term timescales. As a result we maintain an even pace of work throughout the year and only occasionally will we have to rush to finish work for a hard deadline. Instead of having busy times and slow times we maintain a constant rate of work. This makes for a consistent and predictable work pattern which helps keep a good balance.
Colleagues at SLE have a wide range of interests outside of work and this makes for a vibrant atmosphere in the canteen and tea room. There are various informal sports sessions which run during lunchtimes and after work, and creative activities including music & sketching. I’ve heard there’s even a lunchtime bridge club. The changing rooms, showers and drying cabinets make it very convenient for those who commute by bicycle or even run in!