»One of the things that I enjoyed the most was how with physics you could explain things that happened in your day to day life that I couldn’t explain until now»

»One of the things that I enjoyed the most was how with physics you could explain things that happened in your day to day life that I couldn’t explain until now»

Fourth interview for the project YoungHumansOfScience. Where I try to interview people related to this field and understand their stories in order to close the gap between society and science.

I was born in Brazil and my mother always pushed for me to go into university. I tried to follow this path and tried to enroll in a Federal University, a free university but that is extremely hard to get into.

These universities are really competitive and many people take several years of preparation to enroll in one of them.
I tried to get in law but I didn’t pass and the second year I tried to go into history and didn’t pass either so I ended up enrolling in a private university to study history. But these universities cost an incredible amount and I couldn’t afford it so I decided to go into the course that was the easiest to get into. Physics.

As I was preparing to go into physics I started to notice that I loved it. One of the things that I enjoyed the most was how with physics you could explain things that happened in your day to day life that I couldn’t explain until now.

Interviewer: Do you have any examples?

One of them would be why curtains don’t blow inwards when there is wind outside. I never knew why this happened, and I thought that it would have been the other way around, but as I studied hydrodinamics I learned that it was because of a difference in pressure.

Because whenever the wind blows fast enough perpendicular to the house it creates a difference in pressure, because the wind inside the house »doesn’t move» but the wind outside moves. This creates a difference in pressure and that is why the air from inside goes towards the outside and that’s why the curtains blow towards the outside.

Photo by Alistair MacRobert on Unsplash

Interviewer: How did you end up working in this field?

A friend invited me to the group he was working on, a research group in non-linear optics. There we focused on the changes in properties of the light. One of the problems I had when studying physics was that while you were studying you could understand the concept but you couldn’t see how it was applied. Only when you start working in the lab do you actually understand how it actually changes and applies.

»The experiments let you connect the abstract with the reality»

In this lab I met a post doc that had worked in Germany and I learned of the possibility to go abroad.
Inspired by him, I went to do a PhD in Germany and then to Oxford and now I am in Spain as I followed my curiosity.

Interviewer: Which would you say is your biggest struggle right now?

We all have the same struggles in the end, we all want a stable position in the research field. This is not easy to find but still we are in a better position compared to people who don’t have a chance to study.

Mostly researcher’s struggle is that only 1% of the people in research can reach the position of professor, and it’s even harder for people who come from outside. Now that I have reached my fifth year of post doc it’s hard to know what to do, because there are almost no positions for professors, and although I could try to get a position as a professor in Brazil, but I don’t want to go back.
So seeing that it was hard to obtain a position if I continued in the experimental part and that there aren’t many positions for professors I started learning machine learning on my own.

I saw machine learning as a new technology that needed new minds for more practical applications. I wanted to be part of it. I wanted to be part of it not only because it was interesting, but because I wanted to help take it into a good path.
To learn it I started by trying to apply it hands on. I tried to apply what I learned, and see if it worked and as I saw that it worked I tried to complement it with the theory to understand it better.

Advice for someone who just started in research:

When you start you are too romantic about science, but as you go into it deeper and deeper you start seeing that it is a lot about publishing, getting ego and prestige, obtaining grants and funding.

Some of the researchers are only interested in publishing, and there aren’t enough collaborations among different research areas, we should definitely support more interdisciplinary projects.

I thought that I could help change people’s lives but as you go in this path you get more realistic. So the advice would be, if you have an idea of what you enjoy you should follow it further.

»You should do what you think you will enjoy and follow it»

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To read more of the interviews follow this link.

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