Interview by Carey Sargent, EPFL, NCCR MARVEL
Were you always interested in science?
No, of course not. When I was child I really hated math, I was really scared by it, but in the end I realized that there is not a big different between Latin, Greek and math, it's just a matter of logic. Physics in particular is really a challenging field because you have to ask yourself many questions that you have to try to answer and then there's always the next question coming along. It's really challenging, simulating and exciting. It’s quite similar to literature or translating Greek and Latin, you really have to focus and use all the tools you have in order to solve the problem.
Why did you move from classics to science?
I wanted to study something also useful. I don't want to say that literature and other fields are not useful, in my opinion they are, but science has a major impact in our lives and it is something that had considerable weight in my final choice.
What is the topic of your master's project?
Structural, vibrational and thermal properties of a linear chain of carbon atoms. Basically the aim of my work was to study the thermal transport in carbon-based materials. A chain is a one dimensional (1D) object, and 1D materials are always something ideal, but understanding such systems sheds light on the fundamental physics of thermal transport and vibrational properties.
I've always been fascinated by thermal transport, due to its tremendous impact on our society. In electronics and nanotechnologies thermal transport is going to play a major role, and understanding how it works at an atomistic level has a crucial importance for the knowledge and control of the technological devices.
For instance I really loved Barbies and dolls, not science, and now I am totally passionate about physics. I believe it is a cliché of the society that we have to change with our working example. It's a slow process but I’m confident it will work. Women are great in science.
Why are women still underrepresented in science?
It's difficult question and I'm not sure about the answer. I think that women are afraid with respect to men and maybe we also expect more from ourselves. We want to be perfect somehow. For example, if there's a job opening, we want to respect all the criteria. Sometimes we tend to underestimate ourselves ourselves and we believe in society-driven biases, like for instance that scientific studies are more suitable to the male gender. I completely disagree, and in addition I don't think it's a matter of what toy you played with as a child, I don't think that's the point. For instance I really loved Barbies and dolls, not science, and now I am totally passionate about physics. I believe it is a cliché of the society that we have to change with our working example. It's a slow process but I’m confident it will work. Women are great in science.
Do you have any advice for other young women interested in science?
If you are really interested in science, it's an exciting journey and there's room for everyone. It's also useful, we need science now more than ever. We are facing so many revolutions, so many problems, so I think you don't have to be afraid. If you really like it, you won't regret going into it.