IBM: Not your typical software or hardware company

By Aakash Pushp

Aakash PushpWouldn’t it be nice if a room temperature superconductor could be discovered? We could save one-third of the global energy if we had superconducting transmission lines connecting power stations to our homes, we could have at least a hundred times faster computers, as readily available magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines as stethoscopes, and magnetically levitating ultra-fast trains for mass transportation: these were the dinner table discussions with my Dad and Uncle when I was in high school that inspired me to pursue a scientific career in Physics. After an undergraduate from IIT Bombay, India I pursued a PhD in Condensed Matter Physics (CMP) from UIUC and Princeton University, where I specialized in building and using a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) to probe superconductivity at the atomic scale.

If you are wondering how is my background suitable for IBM: IBM Research is where high-temperature superconductivity was discovered and STM was invented both leading to Nobel Prizes. This was my inspiration to join IBM Research as a PostDoc and to continue as a regular scientist. I have had the good fortune to work with Millennium-prize winner Dr. Stuart Parkin, who is responsible for the read heads used in the current magnetic hard drives. A significant effort in our group is to develop the next-generation Magnetic Random Access Memory and Racetrack Memory that have the potential to unleash and enable the next era of computing.

Wait, didn’t you say that you were working on Superconductivity? You are researching on Magnetism now? The answer is yes and yes; not only do I get to work on Superconductivity, I also work on a variety of different CMP sub-topics such as Magnetism, Complex Oxides and their Interfaces,  Sensors, Metal-Insulator Transition, Topological Insulators, Weyl Semi-Metals, Quantum Computing, to name a few.

We have also been working on a novel energy storage device that we have proposed and named ‘Photo-battery’, which directly converts sunlight into electrochemical form. Thanks to such exotic projects, I get to rub shoulders with several organic chemists, computational physicists, and pick their brains – a path that would be difficult to follow in an academic setting.

IBM Research has a unique mix between academic and industrial research: it offers the flexibility and deep sense of collaboration and openness which is usually missing in an industrial research environment, whereas it also creates a motivating environment for scientists to work purposefully on the most challenging problems in order to have far-reaching impact. IBM enables a successful and expedient transition of a lab invention or discovery into a working prototype, which is advantageous over an academic setting. IBM has had a tradition of maintaining a healthy academic-industrial partnership, which allows us to partner and share ideas with domestic as well as global leaders, scientists and interns in their respective fields.

IBM’s mantra to THINK is at its very foundation that provides us scientists a stimulating environment with incredible opportunities of learning and growth. Due to a very collaborative and open environment, IBM remains a hotbed of creativity exemplified by the fact that we have been the world leaders in the most number of patents filed for the past 24 consecutive years.

IBM cares about its scientists with performance-based compensation, enabling them to excel in their field of interest thereby gaining eminence for themselves and for IBM, which has enabled IBM to remain an essential and integral part of the world and one of the best brands. 5 Nobel Prizes, 6 Turing Awards, 10 Medals of Technology and 5 National Medals of Science are a testament to IBM’s ability to attract and to retain the world’s best talent and support them to attain eminence.

Overall, IBM is a great place to work with a very collegial ambiance and friendly people who are willing to share ideas and collaborate to build something together and have some fun while doing so!


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