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Previous issues of the newsletter are published below.



Name: Andrea Caputo


Current position: Postdoc


Affiliation: CERN


Field of research: Dark Matter direct and indirect detection, particle physics in stars, collider physics




 

What is your career trajectory to date?

I graduated in Theoretical Physics from University of Rome La Sapienza in 2016. After that I moved to Valencia for my PhD with Prof. Pilar Hernandez, within the ITN European Network Elusives. I then held a postdoc position for 2 years (2020-2022) at Tel Aviv University and Weizmann, in Israel, and I am now since November 2022 a Senior Postdoc at CERN-TH.


What are the most exciting open questions in your research area?

The most exciting question for me is: what is dark matter? This is the questions which drives my work, the fact we do not understand 80% of the matter in the universe drives me crazy.


What do you like and dislike about being a scientist?

I like the possibility to work on fundamental questions and do what I like, including hard core computations, and to think a lot. I also love to travel to present my research and to chat with smart, stimulating people all over the world. There is nothing I particularly dislike, I think it's a wonderful job.


What advances or new results are you excited about or looking forward to?

I am looking forward for the data of missions such as SKA, SPHEREx, Athena for the indirect detection of dark matter, as well as new experiments for direct detection to run in the next years, including IAXO and ALPSII.


What’s your favorite food?

Parmigiana di melanzane.


How do you like to relax after a hard day of work?

Gym and football, or just watch a movie or go out with my girlfriend, or friends.


Do you have any non-physics interests that you would like to share?


I love working out in the gym and play football.


If you were not a scientist, what do you think you would be doing?

A consultant in some strategic company.


What do you hope to see accomplished scientifically in the next 50 years?

Finding axion dark matter both in the sky and in the lab.







  • juliedalgobbo

Name: Gabriela Barenboim


Current position: Faculty


Affiliation: University of Valencia and IFIC (UV-CSIC)


Field of research: Cosmology and Neutrino phenomenology




 

What is your career trajectory to date?

I graduated from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina and obtained my PhD in Valencia doing mostly flavor physics. Moved then successively to Germany (Mainz), CERN and Fermilab and during those years, I adiabatically shifted to neutrino physics and cosmology mainly due to first and second neighbor interactions (and I am being literal here, it was through discussions and talks with my nearest office neighbors). Finally, I obtained a tenured position in the Theoretical Physics Department of the University of Valencia and IFIC, where I have been even since. But watch out. I am established but not settled! I still enjoy moving around, spending time in other Institutions, mostly though long visiting positions during summer.


What are the most exciting open questions in your research area?

There are so many exciting questions that it is hard to pick just a few. But I would say that the nature of the neutrino (whether it is a Dirac or Majorana particle) makes it always to the head of my list together with the generation of the baryon asymmetry of the Universe and whether there is anything hiding (very effectively indeed) behind the Standard Model. The nature of dark energy and dark matter as well. Then in a somehow distant second group, I will put extra (sterile) neutrinos, non-standard interactions and the inflationary paradigm. And of course, also the resolution of the Ho tension.


What do you like and dislike about being a scientist?

I do like the job altogether, teaching included. I really appreciate the freedom we are given. We are essentially paid to satisfy our own curiosity, to develop and fully exploit our own imagination, and to test our own limits. I also love the interaction with other scientists. Through the years, I realized that we can discuss and confront ideas in a friendly atmosphere and not be hurt or take it personally if proven wrong (I usually tell to my students “do not buy what you sell”). This does not happen outside the academia, unfortunately.

What I dislike the most is the environmental pressure. We are evaluated so often in so many ways that it is almost impossible to stop, re-evaluate and think. Let alone to work in something really outside the main stream. Specially if you have young people involved.


Which of your skills are you most proud of, or find most useful?

I guess someone knowing more psychology than myself could say I do have an authority problem. I do not take anything for granted and have a natural tendency to distrust the “authority” and question everything. This can make your teenage years miserable, but it is indeed the right mindset for a scientific career. I would say I am also very creative which is quite useful if you work in theory and above all I am extremely hardworking. I would like to consider myself a good mother too and even if I am far from being one, my two boys (now grown-up mathematicians) are the “projects” I am most proud of, to this day.


In your career so far, at what point were you the most excited, and what were you excited about?


Again, too many to list. The discovery of neutrino masses and the accelerated expansion of the Universe were really exciting times. Also, many anomalies that died but left us with a lot of fun and a lot of physics learnt. And also, the approval or the kick off of many experiments (Planck for example) which shed light on many physics topics I am puzzled about.


What new skills would you like to learn in the next year?


Bayesian Statistics. I have been using Monte Carlo Markov Chains for quite some time but do not think have a profound understanding of Bayesian statistics. I have taken an online course on it during the pandemic and would love to take a more advanced one.


What advances or new results are you excited about or looking forward to?

I am particularly excited about the next generation of experiments in high energy physics, astrophysics and cosmology. We have reached a point where the overlap is such that we have made true an economic theory proven wrong long ago. I mean, the “Trickle-down economics” is a scam but in physics we do have a trickle-down effect. And because of that, we are guaranteed to have something exciting in our (near) future.


What is the biggest obstacle that is slowing down your research field right now?

I do not think we are being slowed down. We, as a society, are facing some challenges and physics is not an island.


What role do you think a community network like EuCAPT can play in developing theoretical astroparticle physics and cosmology in Europe?

EuCAPT can and should play a role in Europe, building and articulating a community first and at the same time promoting/educating the surrounding society about the importance of fundamental science. We have sophisticated our science to produce extremely fine quality products. Now we have to educate people’s tastes accordingly. There is no better time. We have emerged from a pandemic, where it was transparent not only the role of science/research in the development of the vaccine and the policies to fight the virus, but also the dangers associated to scientific ignorance. EuCAPT is the ideal tool to help us align ourselves into a body and develop bridges inside and outside our community.


What’s your favorite food?

This is a very difficult one. Only one? Eggplant parmigiana probably and seafood (of any kind and cooked almost in every possible way). Also, some Indian dishes, like chicken madras. Or the Korean kimchi. Let alone desserts. And above all “dulce de leche”, the Argentinian number one favorite.


Have you lived in a different European country than you do now? If so, would you like to tell us something about it, e.g. a fond memory or something you found surprising?


As said before I was born and grew up in Argentina, and lived in Germany, Switzerland, US and Spain. Not surprisingly, I have several “culture shocks” over the years. I remember the first time I was supposed to take a train in Germany, scheduled to leave at 2:39. It didn’t even cross my mind the possibility of a schedule exact to the minute. I showed up 2:40 and seeing no train, I assumed it hasn’t even arrived yet !!!! I had a lot to learn, and I did it. And then after many years of living in Germany and Switzerland, once I moved to the US, I tried to go to the sauna of the Homeowners' association's club naked (in the Midwest!). I was lucky, I didn’t end up in jail.


How do you like to relax after a hard day of work?

I like to walk and as I do not live too far away from Campus, if I am very stressed out, I walk home. It is approximately 5 kilometers distance, 45 minutes door to door. If my stress level is high enough, a pit stop at a bakery for a piece of chocolate cake can also be quite useful. When everything else fails, I pamper myself.


Do you have any non-physics interests that you would like to share?


I love to read, to go to the theater and to study. I have finished not that long ago a course on Greek mythology that I particularly enjoyed.


If you were not a scientist, what do you think you would be doing?

Probably I would be a mathematician. But I honestly find it hard to believe I would enjoy something else as much as I enjoy physics.


What do you hope to see accomplished scientifically in the next 50 years?

I will be over 100 in 50 years, so to keep seeing (to be alive and well) would be amazing enough for me.


What question would you have liked us to ask you, and what would you have responded?


What advice would you give to your 20-30 years old self ? Believe in yourself. Do not be afraid to speak up your mind. Keep around you only those people you truly love and trust.








Name: Pasquale Dario Serpico


Current position: Faculty


Affiliation: Laboratoire d'Annecy-le-Vieux de Physique Théorique (LAPTh, CNRS)


Field of research: Theoretical astroparticle physics




 

What is your career trajectory to date?

I was undergrad in Naples, Italy. I did my PhD at Max-Planck-Institut for Physics (& TUM) in Munich, Germany. Then postdoctoral stints at the Theoretical astrophysics division at Fermilab, USA and CERN Theory group, Switzerland, before being hired at CNRS in France, where I still am.


What are the most exciting open questions in your research area?

Is it possible (and if yes, how) to turn the parametric understanding of the universe at the largest scales into an understanding of its constituents and fundamental processes? Dark matter, the accelerated expansion, inflation, baryon asymmetry... are all facets of the same question.


What do you like and dislike about being a scientist?

Being a scientist is like being an explorer: Questioning the world around you becomes the raison d'être of your existence. Like an explorer, you need to train, continually challenge yourself and learn new skills... while allowing nature to surprise you at any time.

But like an explorer, this means putting a high pressure on oneself and raise the bar of expectation: personal relations as well as the attachment to a specific place are usually affected. While there are opportunities to find their own way to be a researcher, one should be aware that there is a perfectly human pressure and trend to 'normalise' your activity, to bureaucratise it, to restrict your curiosity by narrowing down your field of expertise to the point that what you do may become irrelevant (to advance scientific knowledge, that is). To some extent it is unavoidable, but we must be aware of this risk and that this is taking us away from the 'real job': thinking otherwise amounts to fooling oneself. You can't be a true explorer while filling an excel sheet or being confined alone in a room.


Which of your skills are you most proud of, or find most useful?

To have learned to approach problems or understand arguments in a hierarchical way: First, isolate the key issues or steps, then delve into details (only if/when required). It may look trivial, but took me some time to learn and it is a skill I rarely see among young researchers (and sometimes among less young ones, too ;)


In your career so far, at what point were you the most excited, and what were you excited about?


Perhaps the measurement of baryon acoustic oscillations in 2005. For me, it nailed the case for the dark matter as being a fully-fledged scientific theory (at cosmo scales, that is! Not talking of any specific model incarnation...): Once adjusting your free parameters on the CMB, it made a prediction, it could have been falsified, it was found where predicted. The ball is in the theorists camp, to find what this phenomenon means, a task we have failed to complete till now. But as a PhD student, it was like watching the scientific method unfolding under my eyes. Physical cosmology was a science!


What new skills would you like to learn in the next year?


To learn more about some non-perturbative phenomena in the early universe, which can only be seriously dealt with numerically (end of inflation dynamics via lattice tools, for instance).


What advances or new results are you excited about or looking forward to?

I am pretty sure that experiments opening up new frontiers will provide us with new questions: JWST, gravitational wave observatories or 21 cm cosmology are examples. Deeply, I hope they will revolutionise the current cosmological model, since we only advance greatly where our knowledge is shuttered!


What is the biggest obstacle that is slowing down your research field right now?

The size of the experiments is growing and with that comes bureaucratisation and longer timescales from conception to delivering results. For theorists, since the timescale between proposing ideas and testing them is growing, the risk of being trapped in a bubble and become self-referential is bigger and bigger. The risk of group thinking leading into long and expensive dead ends is the most serious obstacle in such a context. Good theoretical ideas are the ones that explain the world and make us understand/compute what was not possible before; not what a community finds fashionable or technical virtuosity at a given time. It is our duty to keep that in mind when hiring, promoting, evaluating grants...


What role do you think a community network like EuCAPT can play in developing theoretical astroparticle physics and cosmology in Europe?

I hope it will foster scientific diversity and stimulate new collaborations, notably among young people.


What’s your favorite food?

I am not sure why this is a relevant question... but to truly answer requires knowing 'where': Usually, I tend to adapt to (and search for) the culinary culture of the place I am at. If a place has no culinary culture, definitely it is a place I would not love to live at: Of course it can be an 'imported' culture (all cultures ultimately are!) but there must be a 'how and why' for the incorporation and reprocessing to have taken place. I love Japanese or Indian food, for instance, but in Naples I would never dare to go for those options: A good pizza is all I look for, and there is too little culture of those 'alien' foods to hope for a good experience. I never bought a French wine in the US, I find it a non-sense. And I was definitely surprised that corn in the US is used more to fuel cars or to produce sodas then as a food basis, as native experience should have thought the uninvited newcomers a long ago. At home, I mostly cook Italian dishes (especially vegetable and fish-based ones). Overall, I tend towards a flexitarian diet, heavily influenced by Mediterranean taste, but I rely on local, seasonal products whenever possible.


Have you lived in a different European country than you do now? If so, would you like to tell us something about it, e.g. a fond memory or something you found surprising?


Sure, Germany or Switzerland. I can for instance say that I only learned to appreciate a warm, sunny day in the spring after my first winter in Munich. It's not only Nature that blossoms, it's the whole attitude of the people that changes. Every new place I have lived at made me think about some piece of existence that I took for granted!


How do you like to relax after a hard day of work?

Depends on the season: in winter, most often reading a good book. In spring-summer, mostly open-air activities in contact with nature (walking, hiking, swimming...).


Do you have any non-physics interests that you would like to share?


I love knowing about other places and cultures. History, geography, languages, food, for instance. But also learning about the flora and fauna of the different parts of the world.


If you were not a scientist, what do you think you would be doing?

I could have very easily conceived a scientific job different from physics (notably in natural sciences: geology, paleontology, zoology...) but it's hard for me to realistically think of a job outside the scientific realm. I would have loved to be a musician and I love art and architecture in particular, but frankly I don't have the artistic skills and never considered those for a career. Most probably, I would be happy in a job related to environmental preservation: From conservationist to park ranger, I certainly could see myself taking care of trees and animals (in their environment, that is)!


What do you hope to see accomplished scientifically in the next 50 years?

To understand the origin of life, which probably will be associated to discovering it elsewhere... or to understand complex systems like the brain. Even better, to answer questions we do not even know how to formulate today.


What question would you have liked us to ask you, and what would you have responded?


Strange way to ask: "Anything else you'd like to add"? Since you asked about food, probably something along the lines: What's the most influential book you read / person you met, or what kind of music you listen to, or what is your most remarkable place you have been on Earth and why (all probably more relevant than the food-related question). The answers are reserved for interested people... if and when they'd like ask me in person. If you read till here, I already abused of your patience!







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