How an apprentice uses ’made-up’ electrons to save researchers time

The test signal generator that Jingo Bozzini built helps researchers save a lot
The test signal generator that Jingo Bozzini built helps researchers save a lot of time in developing the novel microscope. (Photograph: Fabio Merino)
This doesn’t happen often: For his final project, an electronics apprentice at ETH Zurich produced a test device that will save physicists a lot of time in developing a novel microscope. His work has been published in a scientific journal.

Integrated into the research group

Apprentices also have to prepare a detailed schedule for their IPA. "Testing the generator and documenting the work took longer than planned," Bozzini recounts. This was mainly because he had written his work - as is common in research - in English and using LaTeX, a software program. That’s not the only thing that makes Bozzini’s work unusual: "This final project goes well beyond the basic skills of an electronics engineer," Acremann says. In January, Bozzini even managed to publish a scientific paper on the test signal generator in the Journal of Instrumentation - not an everyday achievement for an apprentice.

As an apprentice, Bozzini was fully integrated into the research group. "I was able to contribute to the group’s output with my paper," he says. The close collaboration between researchers and apprentices is a hallmark of vocational training at ETH Zurich. The aspiring electronics engineers spend the first two years of their education in the electronics training lab, where they learn the basics of circuit technology, manufacturing and measuring technology, and programming. For the next two years, they do an apprenticeship within ETH - in a research lab, for example. "Especially in experimental physics, it’s important that we have experts who can solve technical problems and implement things effectively," Acremann explains.

Although Bozzini thinks it’s cool that his thesis made an important contribution to basic research, he remains modest: "That’s my job - it’s what I get paid for," he says. He doesn’t yet know whether he would one day like to work in research himself. He’s currently completing a one-year full-time vocational diploma. He has fond memories of his successful apprenticeship at ETH Zurich: after his IPA, he got to travel with Acremann to Hamburg, where the microscope is currently being set up. "That was an exciting experience for me. That’s when I saw that my work can actually contribute to basic research," he says happily.

The photos were taken by Fabio Merino. He is a budding interactive media designer from ETH vocational training.
Stéphanie Hegelbach