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Posted by Daniëlla van Laarhoven on 25-07-2017 8:44 AM

Achieve breakthroughs by electron microscopes

Categories: Employee Story, Technology

Fanis Grollios develops software that is used in ground-breaking research

Fanis Grollios (31) works as a software technical lead at Thermo Fisher Scientific’s Materials & Structural Analysis division (formerly FEI Company). He is responsible for developing software for the electron microscopes the company produces. His job requires a lot of knowhow, not only about software but also about the fields the microscopes are used in. In the end his goal is to help end-users achieve breakthroughs in their research. This article tells you what it is that makes Fanis’ job fascinating.

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“After I had finished a master in electrical engineering in Greece, I came to the Netherlands for a post-master software technology at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e). The quality of the content of the programme and the fact that it was taught in English were my main reasons for choosing for the Netherlands. And a lot of my fellow-students, mostly from other countries, also chose the programme for the same reason.”

Large number of people work in R&D

“My graduation assignment was at FEI Company. After having graduated I stayed at the company. And that was five years ago. I started as a software specialist and later I became a software technical lead. I work for the R&D department which is a large part of the organisation. About 250 people work in research and development.”

“Half of these people work on software. The software department exists of two groups. On the one hand we have the server side software which is used to operate the tool and on the other hand we write software to guide and further automate the application. Electron microscopes are really complicated machines, so we try to automate repetitive actions that must be performed by users in order to guide them through the workflow.”

A lot of direct contact with end-users

“What makes this job exciting to me is that - in writing software for automating the microscopes - I have a lot of direct and indirect contact with users. And I find it really rewarding to see the end-user, because then you witness how the code you programmed earlier is put into practice.”

“In order to be able to programme the software for the microscopes I need to have a general understanding of electronics and physics as well. Physicists at PhD level used to be the primary users of our microscopes. But we are expanding to life science and that means that more and more biologists use the microscopes as well.”

Each field of application requires a different configuration

“Electron microscopes can be used for life sciences, material sciences, oil and gas and electronics. In the core the machine remains the same but each field needs a different configuration. In the electronics industry for instance a microscope needs to be 100 per cent reliable, 24/7, a lot of guidance is required. For use of microscopes in the field material and life science - the fields our office in Eindhoven is specialised in - less guidance is required.”

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Photo: 3D network of fission gas bubbles in metallic nuclear fuel. Courtesy of Dr. Melissa Teague, Sandia National Labratory

“Use of electron microscopes for life science is relatively new. What you see now is that users in this field now increasingly want to see more and deeper structures. We try to provide software that meets these demands by automating acquisition of data to create 3D models for instance. And that is really nice.”

Learning about microscopes takes time but is fascinating

“What makes this job exciting is that you have to understand software, physics and biology. You interact with really smart people and you learn from speaking with them and you can follow courses or participate in a biology conference for example. Most people that work at our company, have worked here for a very long time as it is an extremely specialised field. If you want to really learn about microscopes and its usage that takes time, but it is extremely fascinating. It is high-end technology, you can see atoms, work at nano-scale and I just can go and sit behind an play with it.”

Contributing to solving societal challenges

“What makes this jobs great is that there are people in life science that perform research in for instance breast cancer, the microscopes and our software help them achieve breakthroughs in their research. I am in the chain of something bigger. Our goal is much higher than merely developing software it is about solving societal challenges.”

“Besides liking what I do, I like the company culture. The work-life balance is very good. Everyone respects their colleagues’ spare time. There is no unnecessary pressure and there is a nice open environment. You can simply walk into someone’s office and discuss topics in an open manner.”

The place to be for a job in software

“When I started studying at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) I moved to Eindhoven. It is a nice city to live in and has a big international community, so you can connect with other internationals easily. Most of my fellow-students at TU/e also stayed in the region after their graduation. If you are looking for a job in software used for industries Eindhoven is the right place to be.”

Turning into an attractive city for young people

“What I have seen during the past years is that Eindhoven is changing rapidly. There are more and more places for young people to go to. You can feel the vibe. More restaurants and more and more attractive options to spend your free time. Moreover Eindhoven offers an attractive infrastructure. I take a lot of weekend trips and Eindhoven is a good base for it. Roads are good so I just drive around and from the airport you can fly to a lot of destinations. I also visit Greece often about four times a year.”

“You also notice the strong heritage of Philips in the region in a positive way. The region does not rely on Philips, there are a lot of other strong technology companies, but the open innovation and co-creation culture and the multi-disciplinary approach has remained.“

Fanis Grollios works at Thermo Fisher Scientific’s Materials & Structural Analysis division (formerly FEI Company) in the Brainport Eindhoven Region. A place where technology and IT are used to solve societal challenges. Are you interested in learning more about Thermo Fisher Scientific or other companies in Brainport? Or are you interested in working for one of these companies? Then upload your profile and TalentBOX automatically matches you to relevant jobs in the Brainport Eindhoven Region.

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