Rashid Ahmed Rifat

A wanderer in my own world, engineer & researcher

Life as a researcher - 1

May 26, 2024

After almost a decade since starting my research career, I realized that the journey should be documented so as not to lose the many stories behind the life I had led and am currently living as a researcher. This series will be a continuous one where I will try to jot down all thoughts of my life as a researcher. However, I do not expect it to be an inspirational guide for anyone; rather, it will consist of facts, be they cozy or bitter. More like a memoir, these write-ups will be my effort to remind myself about the research journey I am going through in the course of time.

My research career officially began when I was in my third year of bachelor's study. I was introduced to my then-mentor, Dr. Mustafa Habib Chowdhury (currently the head of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB)), by a friend. The research lab was named the "IUB Photonics Simulation Laboratory." Before joining the lab, I took one of Dr. Mustafa's courses, and I was really intrigued by his teaching methodology. Dr. Mustafa was truly innovative and open about the way he taught his students. It was in the year 2017 that I joined the IUBPSL as a research assistant and embarked on the journey of my very first research career. I remember being really elated to have joined the team and looking forward to it. To celebrate this occasion, I organized a big party for my friends. It still reminds me of the good times I spent back in my bachelor's days.

Initially, I was assigned mainly to learn about the software where it dealt with simulations related to photonics and optoelectronics. We had a team of only a few people, and the seniors helped us go through the steps to start our work. It took me a while to get into the actual research work as I had to manage time for my own studies and another part-time student job as a student-on-duty (SoD) in the physics laboratory. We had a lab dedicated to research with a high-end computer. As the work was simulation-based, the only equipment we had was the PC where we had to run the software for simulations and research work.

To give readers a holistic picture of what the research was all about, I can explain it briefly. The whole research fell under the domain of photonics and renewable energy. Photonics is the physical science of light waves. We worked with solar cells (renewable energy) and materials called plasmonic materials (optics and photonics). The problem with solar cells is that most of the light energy they harness from sunlight is reflected and wasted. Our research was to trap most of the sunlight into the solar cells to convert the maximum light energy into electrical energy. To make use of most of the energy, special nanoparticles called plasmonic materials (namely gold, silver, and aluminum) in the form of nanospheres were embedded onto the solar cells to act as a magnifying glass to trap the energy from sunlight. The effect of these materials is significant in improving the efficiency of solar cells. I worked with different substrates with which the solar cells are made. The website mentioned above has a good overview of the whole research.
A pictorial view of a solar cell embedded with silver nanospheres (plasmonic particles)
I will end this part with my thoughts on how joining IUBPSL shaped my career and gave me a clear view to pursue my career as a researcher. For the research, we used to have many meetings with our supervisor, Dr. Mustafa. The thing I liked about him was his imagination and perception towards life. He used to talk about science, philosophy, and motivate us to seek the truth behind science. The meetings (especially the individual ones) were not specific to only research; rather, they would pave their way through many topics related to life and philosophy. This is the part where I think I was motivated to pursue a research career. The freedom to think freely, the boundless innovative thoughts that we are capable of thinking as human beings, and the passion towards contributing to a better life for humanity – all these drove me to dive into the field of scientific research.

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