Meet a CQTian: Mohammad Imran

Imran’s electrical and engineering work as a lab technologist at the Centre lays the groundwork for quantum experiments
28 June 2021

Imran enjoys collecting and listening to vinyl records, running, reading and travelling. He is pictured here at Lake Bled in Slovenia in 2016.

Who are you?

Hello. My name is Imran. I was born and bred in Singapore, and I have worked as a laboratory technologist at Centre for Quantum Technologies (CQT) since May 2008. I am a people-person. Talking to strangers comes easily to me. I like making people feel comfortable when they are around me. This trait has served me well in building good relationships with my colleagues.

How did you end up in a quantum research centre?

I worked in an aerospace company for four years after my National Service. One day, I decided that I had had enough of that environment and handed in my resignation letter, packed my bags and went backpacking in Europe for more than a month. After that trip, I returned to join an advertising company as an assistant photographer. I was part of a project photographing the first Subaru WRX hatchback that was going to be launched in Singapore. It was a difficult shoot due to the reflective surface of the car. Working on the project, the angles and the reflection of light gave me the inspiration to work in a science lab setting. Fast forward, here I am working in CQT for 13 years.

What is your role at CQT?

I am a lab support staff holding on to a wide range of portfolios. My work is mostly on an ad-hoc basis. I work with the researchers and students. Depending on their requests, I do design, fabrication, machining, 3D printing, acrylic laser cutting, testing, setting up, etc. I handle the logistics for gas cylinders replacement, chemicals, compressed air, first aid boxes and take care of the safety inventories in CQT. I am also a safety lead for the Research Support Group and a fire warden.

After being at CQT for so long, what is a project that was particularly memorable?

The project that I am most proud of is setting up Kai Dieckmann’s labs in 2010. There were two parts to this setup. The first was to move Kai’s previous lab at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in Germany to CQT lab #01-17. That was a massive endeavour. The second part of this project was to set up another lab #01-16 to mirror lab #01-17. For that lab setup, I started to deal with plumbing, fabrication and even brazing. It was quite an experience.

What is your expertise?

I need to be versatile in my approach to the requests given by the researchers and the students. My main areas of expertise are in engineering and communication. Regardless of the complexity of a task, I believe that hard skills and soft skills go hand in hand in achieving the desired outcome, sometimes, even better than envisioned.

What is a typical day like for you?

I start my day with a routine check of the gas supply. Then, I proceed to the job requests and projects on hand. These can come in the form of designing, sourcing for parts, cutting, machining, assembling, and so on. In addition, there will always be pockets of time spent assisting anyone who approaches me for help. I always have a fulfilling day.

What is the hardest part about your work?

The hardest part of my job is doing the stuff that no one wants to do. For example, a task like the pulling and laying of cables from the lab ceiling through to the corridor ceiling, and then, pulling the cables up to the roof.

What is your favourite aspect of your work?

There are so many things I love about my work; it’s hard to choose a favourite. I enjoy the opportunity to learn something new with every job or project that I am given. The ad-hoc jobs that I get are always something new and different. In addition, there is flexibility and good working relations with my colleagues. Some jobs are challenging but with some research and discussions, the jobs can be managed and completed well on time. I also love the feeling of satisfaction upon accomplishing the goals of a given project.

What are your hobbies outside of work?

I enjoy collecting vinyl records and listening to my collections during the weekends. I started this hobby in 2005 after falling in love with my 1975 Yamaha turntable. It was love at first sight. My collection of records ranges from rock to jazz to hip hop to electronica to dance to world music. I love music!

I also enjoy running which is my stress reliever. And of course, who can resist good books? I like to read books about religions and spirituality. A hobby that I am missing sorely is travelling, so in its place, I tried baking during Phase 3 after the circuit breaker. I signed up for a baking class where I made classic French macarons and a six-layer rainbow cake. That was a fun experience which might turn baking into another hobby.

Would you like to share anything about yourself that other people might be surprised to know?

For those who only see me waist-deep in electrical or engineering work every day, it might come as a surprise to some of them that I am extremely good with kids. At social gatherings, family members and friends will often leave their kids to play with me while they, the adults, catch a breather. I’ve often been told that I should work in a childcare centre!