Community Profile: Chiara Animali

Name: Chiara Animali

Current position: PhD

Affiliation: Pisa University

Field of research: Theoretical Physics and Early Universe Cosmology


What is your career trajectory to date?

I did both my Bachelor and Master studies in Physics at the University of Pisa, in Italy, where I graduated in 2019, specialising in theoretical Physics. I remained in Pisa also for the PhD in Physics, which now I am about to finish.

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

What is the inflaton, at which energy inflation occurred, how the Universe reheated after inflation? What does inflation tell us about the nature of Quantum Mechanics and about the interplay between Quantum physics and Gravity? Can we probe the quantum nature of our Universe?

What do you like and dislike about being a scientist?

I like the freedom in studying what drives my enthusiasm, the possibility to meet and discuss with interesting and brilliant people, the fact of learning something each day.

I don't like the pressure often posed by the academic world, the feeling of frustration or demotivation which can manifest in front of difficulties, the lack of a stimulating environment.

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

I like the fact of being precise and meticulous, and of not overlooking details and subtleties. This can sometimes be a cons, but it allows to understand fully the problem at hand.

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

Personally, up to now, one of the moments I felt most proud of was when I found out I was admitted to the PhD program. Scientifically, the discovery of gravitational waves was a really exciting moment! Especially because I was in Pisa, and due to the vicinity to the Virgo interferometer and due to the big group of physicists in Pisa involved in the experiment, the atmosphere was sensational!

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

There is a lot that I would like to learn or improve, but in order of priority, I would like to improve coding and numerical skills, but also communication skills. Moreover, I would like to test and improve my teaching skills.

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

A possible detection of primordial gravitational waves could really shed light on the physics of the Early universe. Thus, I am looking forward to the next generation of gravitational waves experiments!

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

Personally, I would like to have a 48 hours day in order to do all that I would like to do, from working on projects, reading papers and deepening my knowledge on other fields than my proper research field. In general, I think that the pressure of the academic world and the "Publish or Perish" system can sometimes lead to pursue more "comfortable" research and not to focus on more fundamental but involved and risky questions.

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

I think EuCAPT can be useful in creating a more linked environment in the cosmology and astroparticle community, helping in sharing ideas and in establishing collaborations. Moreover I think it can be useful to support students and early stage researchers, promoting exchange periods or collaborations, in order to create a broader and more active environment which can help in some situations.

What’s your favorite food?

As an Italian, I love pizza and pasta ( especially ravioli, a fresh stuffed type of pasta). My favorite dessert is undoubtedly pistachio ice cream.

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?

I am living in Paris at the moment, for a visiting period of 6 months at the APC Laboratory. I love the smell of butter and baguette that reigns in the Parisian streets and that often leads me to some boulangerie for a pain au chocolat! Living in France is not so different than living in Italy, still I am impressed by how calm and relaxing such a large and seemingly chaotic city can be.

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

I really like to walk and explore the place where I am without a definite destination, be it in nature or in a big city, admiring a landscape or enjoying an atmosphere (and in company of my camera!). This is the best way I manage to clear my mind.

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

I have several and different interests, especially I am attracted by neuroscience studies on brain and mind. Other than science, I am interested in volunteering activities, I think that people should help each other more.

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

I don't know exactly, when I was a little kid I wanted to be an archaeologist. I have always liked nature, thus probably I would have enjoyed doing something which allows to be in contact with nature.

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

On my research field, a probe of gravitational waves from inflation, the understanding of the nature of dark matter, and, more ambitiously, how to better combine gravity with quantum field theory.

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

I would have liked to be asked the question: "why did you choose a path in physics?" I would have answered that the Universe and its phenomena has always fascinated me, and as a young girl I grew up reading about black holes and gravity from popular science journals. Despite at school I had brighter results in mathematics than physics, I never lost the idea of studying the Universe, and now I am here, sometimes still amazed by the fact of carrying on that dream.