"I wanted to do something concrete that I could be proud of"

After finishing high school, Rohat Sihyürek joined PSI as an apprentice polymechanic. There, the 20-year-old manufactured high-precision parts that are essential for Switzerland's largest research facilities.
Rohat Sihyürek, who arrived at PSI in 2017, made high-precision components in small numbers. (Photo: Rohat Sihyürek)

Rohat Sihyürek: "At school, I wasn't particularly interested in natural sciences. But when I saw the PSI research facilities for the first time, I was completely fascinated. They are really impressive. I knew I wanted to do something with my head as well as my hands, and that would result in tangible things I could be proud of. What the people at PSI do and the goals they pursue convinced me to do my Polymechanic apprenticeship here.

«What the people at PSI do and the goal they pursue convinced me to do my polymechanics apprenticeship here.»      Rohat Sihyürek

I have been at PSI since 2017. I mill, turn, drill and cut to produce special metal parts that are used for the maintenance or development of PSI's large facilities: SwissFEL, SINQ (editor's note: the spallation neutron source), the Swiss Light Source. Most of the time, these are one-off orders or very small numbers. The quality requirements are very high: the parts must be flawless, extremely smooth and produced with millimeter precision. At first, this was a challenge. But at PSI, the apprentices have time to train and improve – it's the quality of the work that counts, not the quantity. I learnt a lot from the feedback from my apprentice master about what to improve and what techniques to practice.

I think our work is important to make these research facilities work, but we have little contact with the scientists: the orders come from the manufacturers. I do follow what is going on at PSI through the newsletters or by attending presentations of new projects. The scientists speak in a complicated way, it is sometimes difficult to follow them, but in general you get a basic understanding of the project.

To be hired at PSI, I had an interview and an aptitude test. I was able to show my strengths: mathematics, geometry and English. I saw that learning is taken seriously, and this was confirmed. We can take many courses, for example CAD technical drawing, specialised welding, automation or pneumatic controls. The courses at PSI are not only theoretical, like those at the vocational school, but also very practical. I learned a lot here, also about the human aspects – how to treat your colleagues, how to motivate yourself, how to improve yourself. My trainer always says: now is the time to fill your backpack and learn as much as you can.

I'm in my fourth year and I'm finishing this summer.* After that, I'd like to work in large industrial plants, in the automotive or precision watchmaking industries. Or, why not, continue in a research institution. I've really enjoyed my time here.

* Editor's note: The interview took place before the summer holidays.