Anna’s answers to my questions during this interview did not surprise me at all! I had the impression that she enjoyed doing research but now I realize that she has tons of fun while working in the lab, which is probably why she is so successful at this young age. I will continue to follow her work and hope that I get to collaborate with her group in the near future.
Enjoy her interview to The Science and Engineering Cafe! We look forward to your comments and questions.
1) Why and when did you decide to become a professor?
I think I always had the passion for being a teacher. I remember it was a favorite game my brother and I would play together. The passion for research, though, came later, during my university years, when I started understanding and to have curiosity to know more how the things work. At the moment, for me, exploring new materials and new functionalities is like putting together the pieces of a puzzle: each analysis gives you one aspect of the story and my job is putting them altogether to obtain the big picture.
2) Which of the papers that you authored are you most proud of and why?
The papers I am mostly proud of are essentially those where I had to put more work into putting all the pieces together, the ones I was thinking about also after work hours. And it is very rewarding to see the number of citations of those papers increasing!
In particular, one of the papers of my PhD describes the correlation between barrier properties and the structure of the film (Surf. Coat. Technol., 2010). The paper describes the correlation of the performances of plasma deposited silicon dioxide-like films as diffusion barriers with the density of the film networks. The information about the density was indirectly obtained from detailed spectroscopic analysis in IR and with ellipsometry. It was the first time network density and barrier properties were correlated and unexpected trends made the story more intricate!
3) Describe a fun moment in your career.
I work with vacuum reactors. Modifying them and closing leaks is a part of the job – tightening screws, bolts, changing o-rings, opening and closing flanges… I think the funniest moments are the comments of me and my other female lab mates after those extensive mechanic work sessions: “When I was a kid, I played with Barbie not with Meccano constructions! It’s no fun for me to tighten all those things”, “Nobody told us we would need muscles for research”, “When as a kid I was thinking of my job, I thought I would have produced cosmetics, not tighten bolts!”
4) In your opinion, which is the most effective way to communicate your research? Journal articles, conference presentations, other?
I prefer conference presentations. It is very effective to hear from the scientists about their research and connect the authors of the journal articles to their faces. I find the networking times to be especially useful, after the presentations or at the coffee breaks. I often try to reach out to the presenters whose work particularly interested me to talk and ask questions.
5) If you were given the opportunity to build a new lab anywhere in the world, which location would you choose and why?
Well, I have been given this opportunity two years ago. I was postdoc at MIT, Boston, but my desire was to go back to Europe and build my own new lab there. Why Europe? Essentially to be closer to home! If I were going to move again, I would like to go to a city with a bigger airport, where it is easier to fly in and out of.