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University of Basel

Life as a nanoscience researcher in southern Sweden.

Heidi Potts studied nanoscience in Basel and Toronto. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Lund in Sweden.

A summer excursion: nanoscientist Heidi Potts visiting Ystad with her family. (Photo: Heidi Potts)
A summer excursion: nanoscientist Heidi Potts visiting Ystad with her family. (Photo: Heidi Potts)

After completing my degree at the University of Basel and my doctoral dissertation at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), I moved to Lund with my husband and daughter in January 2018. This took me from the shores of Lake Geneva, where the mountains were heavy with snow and yet spring was just around the corner, to Sweden, where it was already dark at three thirty in the afternoon. The locals combat this by filling every room with about 15 lamps – now I finally understand why IKEA has such a big lighting department.

At the university here in Lund, southern Sweden, I study the interaction of electrons and their spins on quantum dots in nanowires. Our project forms part of NanoLund, the Center for Nanoscience at Lund University – where, as a nanoscience researcher, I naturally feel very much at home. I not only find the topic fascinating, but also really like the working atmosphere here. Excellent links between the research groups allow us to collaborate extensively on projects. This collaboration is undoubtedly helped by our daily coff ee break (“fika”) with the obligatory cinnamon roll (“kanelbulle”).

As a young family, we benefit greatly from the way that Swedish society is set up: It’s child-friendly and places considerable value on equal rights. Excellent state childcare, flexible parental leave – including for fathers – and very understanding colleagues make it easy to achieve a balance between family and working life.

But not everything in Sweden is exactly as I imagined it. For example, I’ve never used cross-country skis to get to work – partly because we only live two minutes away from the university, but also because there’s simply no snow here in the south of the country.  That being said, the seaside is easily accessible by bike and is a great place to enjoy local seafood.  Cheese is also abundant here, although it’s not quite the same as a fine Gruyère, so we always like to bring one or two – or maybe five – blocks of mountain cheese back from our holidays in Switzerland.

Heidi Potts is currently a postdoc at Lund University in Sweden. Brought up in the town of Staufen in southern Baden, she studied nanosciences in Basel and Toronto before earning a doctorate at the Institute of Materials Science at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). She has received awards for her master’s thesis as well as for her doctoral dissertation on the growth and characterization of semiconducting nanowires.

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