Hi, this is Imran Khan from Pakistan, the early stage researcher 7 in the GraWIToN project. My research area is experimental optics and I am working with the team responsible for thermal compensation systems in the Advanced Virgo detector, where I work with squeezed light (a special form of light that exhibits low noise). Currently, I am living in L’Aquila, a city in the Abruzzo region, in Italy. Life is quite enjoyable here with lots of natural sceneries, friendly academic environment and a bunch of good friends. I also do a lot of photography almost every weekend as a hobby and try to capture the best of nature. Specifically, when it’s a sunny day in L’Aquila, I see all around high mountains cover with white layer of snow, lots of historical monuments, and heritage of its medieval past while wandering around. As a Marie Curie fellow I travel a lot as well, and this is indeed an opportunity for me to travel and experience different cultures and make new friends in Europe.

How I ended up in the GraWIToN project: I found a great interest in optics right after completing my BSc degree. During my MSc thesis, I decided to look for a PhD in applied optics, and found myself welcomed by the GraWIToN project (in fact it was not that easy but after getting through selection procedure). The research laboratory where I did M.Sc. thesis work has played key role in shaping my skills and knowledge in optics and my advisor Prof. Ali Serpengüzel helped me to realize the importance of light based technologies in future scientific developments, thus made it easy for me to decide upon my PhD adventure.

The impact I have in my life being a Marie Curie fellow, particularly in the GraWIToN project, is quite special. The discovery of first ever direct detection of gravitational waves on 11 FEB 2016 by the gravitational wave community affected my life not less the way as it did for those scientists and engineers who are working for past couple of decades in the field of gravitational waves (indeed the credit of this discovery of century goes to them). I particularly did some interviews with media channels in Pakistan and that motivated a lot of young students about the field of gravitational waves. I feel more energetic and passionate to work on the current and future challenges in gravitational wave astronomy and aiming a career in this exciting field of physics. Working in the LIGO-Virgo collaboration gave me the confidence to feel being a team member in a global community with one aim of exploring further this newly opened window in astrophysics. The workshops and training locally and internationally I got until now, have also helped me gain the theoretical knowledge and simulation skills required in commissioning of the advanced era of gravitational wave detectors. I like travelling and being a Marie Curie fellow demands a lot of travelling to partner institutes throughout the program tenure, so my journey is not only limited to work at the single institute, but learning and sharing the knowledge and skills among the other researchers in the GraWIToN project.

I enjoyed my stay at Gran Sasso Science Institute (GSSI), which is an international PhD school and center for advanced studies in the framework of Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN), whose aim is to train PhD students in astroparticle physics. The most amazing thing about GSSI is its friendly academic environment, which fosters research oriented course work under the supervision of highly qualified faculty. Coming from solid state physics background and taking particle physics courses at PhD level is quite hard but the instructors gave me the confidence and passion to pursue the required course work towards PhD degree in Astroparticle Physics. Apart from that, I got bunch of European friends and particularly I came to know about Italian culture and with the passage of time trying to learn more about it. One of the issues I am struggling with is the language barrier, but now I am putting efforts in learning the Italian language to fully experience the Italian culture.

The Marie Curie program GraWIToN has given me a lot in a short period of time. No doubt the experimental work related to gravitational wave detectors is quite challenging but the passion to work hard is making its way through it.

Imran Khan

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