After graduation from the Master’s Programme in Photonics in 2013, Salman Daniel has experimented both the academic world and the industry.
First, Salman Daniel went on pursuing a PhD degree at the same UEF department, and currently he is developing ultramodern Augmented Reality (AR) eyewear in a Finnish company. Good opportunities have encouraged Pakistan-native Salman to stay in Joensuu, Finland, which he has called home for more than 8 years now.
Ending up to study photonics in Joensuu was quite a random coincidence for Salman. He completed his Bachelor’s degree in physics back in Pakistan, after which he applied to some universities including one in Sweden together with his friends – but with no real intent.
– Then a friend of mine told me about the Photonics programme at UEF. It was fairly new back then, and I got interested since I had taken a couple of courses on photonics in my Bachelors.
So he applied and got accepted – and luckily stayed for much longer than just two years. However, he didn’t have the easiest start on the studies.
– Apparently because there were so many students applying for a visa, there was a huge delay, and I was the last one of the group to arrive. In fact, I missed the whole first period, and you can only imagine how much work there was waiting for me. Therefore, the first semester was extremely busy and at that time I thought that it will be very tough, if not impossible, to finish in the two-year timeframe.
But Salman caught up with the courses and lab exercises, and when other students were already done with the labs, one of his teachers assisted him in performing the experiments sometimes even late in the evenings. And – in the end, because of his dedication and resilience, Salman was the first of his student group to submit his Master’s thesis.
Sauna for the win
Of course, moving to Finland from hundreds of kilometres away, posed its own challenges in daily life.
– Everything was different: climate, food, culture… Being far away from family was not the most difficult part since I was used to that already, but mostly it was all the daily stuff that took some time to get accustomed to. However, after the first semester you feel that everything gets to normal and you start making friends and such.
In Finland, Salman found new hobbies – of which especially biking and sauna have become long-lasting habits. He also got to know a Finnish family when he visited the community gatherings in Joensuu, and eventually he ended up living in their house for a while, really getting to know the Finnish way of life up close.
He also brought something from his home country to Finland when he and his friends founded a cricket club at the university.
– Cricket is a very common sport in South Asian countries, and the Student Union of the UEF was kind to give a space for the club to play in. It was nice to play with both international and Finnish students.
Salman also wants to give credit for the staff at the university – both academic and non-academic – for being very supportive.
– Whenever I’ve needed any help with timetables or work travels or anything else, they have always been there for me. I really admire them for their effort.
Career in Finland
Eventually it was the internship during his first year of study that got Salman “fall in love” for photonics and optics– for good.
– During the internship, I studied the properties of metallic nanostructures on interaction with light using various measurement tools in UEF labs.
Now after a few years have passed, Salman sees clearly that the Master’s degree provided both fundamental as well as deep theoretical and experimental knowledge about photonics.
Today, a significant part of everything I know about optics and photonics derives from the Master’s degree, which is definitely useful and immensely related to my current job.
Today, Salman is working as a lightguide designer at a company that develops ultra-thin glasses for Augmented Reality. The practical applications are numerous in e.g. education, healthcare and, of course, entertainment and gaming.
– I’m part of the design team that strives to make thin and light AR eyewear. Normally they are quite bulky, but our product resembles normal glasses.
In general, Salman thinks that the photonics industry is notable in Finland and it is developing fast all the time. Even though Joensuu is relatively small in size, it is considered as photonics hub in Finland: the UEF is widely known for promoting education and research in the field of photonics, and companies thrive.
– Also, the Master’s programme in Photonics is gaining recognition and is highly valued by employers. I have seen the development of the programme when studying PhD at the same department and I can truly recommend it to anyone who wants to become a professional in photonics.
At this moment, Salman’s plans are clear: he wants to continue working in his current position as long as there is this certain hunger for development.
– I’m keen to gain new knowledge and learn new skills, and that motivates me to move forward in life. With a right set of skills and knowledge, one should seek rising through the ranks and representing the company at a bigger stage.
And if work gets hectic, Salman has a way of relaxing.
– The best way to relax is to take a proper sauna bath, he laughs.