Groundbreaking research needs effective communication

Sneha is a sensor researcher at imec, based at Holst Centre. She left her native India to pursue a master's in chemical engineering in the Netherlands. Following her studies, she joined imec in Eindhoven on a consultancy basis. After two years, she transferred to the research center full time. In the four years she worked at imec, she identified what she wanted to learn and went for it. She is especially proud of the growth she is achieving. “Every year was different. Each year represented another step forward in my career. Here I get the space to grow and learn from my colleagues and managers.”

The real world

“I started at imec as a sensor researcher and worked on sensors for lead detection in water. My work at that time consisted of experimenting in the lab and reading literature. After four years, I am still working on ion sensors (for aqueous media), but the great thing is that my work has moved from the lab to the real world.” 

“At university you mainly do fundamental research, which is also great, but you don’t see what it means in the real world. After one year at imec, I noticed that the interactive side of the work appealed to me. Not just in the lab, but particularly outside it. For example, presenting my work to potential clients and talking to them about it. I get a sense of achievement from working with the customer to see what the technology can do. In my second year, I asked my manager if I could work on a customer project.”

“It’s really interesting to work on a specific solution. The customer tells you what they’re looking for. And then you get to work as a team. Your colleagues ask you for advice. And I, in turn, learn from them. I really like that interactive process. At imec you have so many different skills within a team. That's very inspiring. I work with hardware, software, and integration experts and I’m there for the sensor expertise. We bring all that knowledge together to find the ideal solution for the customer.”

More than just research

“After that customer project, I got the chance to lead my first project, for a foreign partner. In the beginning, I found it quite exciting. That particular partner had a reputation for being demanding when it came to deliverables and timelines. On top of that, the team consisted of professionals who had more experience than I did. But it was amazing. The project lasted two years and ultimately yielded a great end result: a miniaturized wireless pH sensor. The sensor was already available, but we made it smaller so that it could be used, for example, in the biomanufacturing industry.”

“Along the way, we didn't always get great results. In those situations, I had to bring the customer disappointing news. With the right guidance from my managers and senior colleagues, I learned that running a project isn’t just about the technical side. It’s also about effective communication and getting the team on the same page. And coordinating with them to find out how much time they have, because everyone has other projects to do.”

“In my work, effective communication and managing expectations are just as important as the research in the lab. You can do lots of groundbreaking research, but if it isn’t communicated in the right way, it isn’t much use.”


Being from India and missing her family was especially difficult during her master’s studies. “But things gradually got better and better. I’m used to life here and have built my own little world with my boyfriend and friends. Of course, I miss my family, but it’s nice here and I feel independent. I also enjoy discovering Europe.”

Besides working and traveling in Europe, Sneha occasionally paints. She also likes to have everything neat and organized. “At home, but also at work. I have a painting hanging in my office. I love to make things more beautiful, even if it’s just with something small. For example, I enjoy creating presentations that also look attractive. Of course, it's about the technology, but if it’s eye-catching, it helps to make people listen more attentively.”  

Her program manager Marcel Zevenbergen was given the same role at OnePlanet in Wageningen. This gave Sneha the opportunity to support him in his work at Holst Centre Eindhoven. “Learning the tricks and trade of program management,” as she calls it. “At imec, you really get the opportunity to shape your career. I thought that as a sensor researcher I would mostly be doing literature reviews and experimenting in the lab, but it’s so much more than that.”

Who: Sneha

From: India

What: Sensor researcher

At imec since: January 2018 at Holst Centre