Community Profile: Elena Pinetti

Name: Elena Pinetti

Current position: Postdoc

Affiliation: Recently graduated from Sorbonne and Turin Universities

Field of research: Astroparticle Physics


What is your career trajectory to date?

I earned my bachelor’s degree in Turin, then I did an internship at the Laboratoire de Physique Théorique et Hautes Energies in Paris. Afterwards, I completed my master’s degree at the University of Turin and I recently finished my doctorate degree in a joint-programme between Sorbonne University and the University of Turin. I am currently a postdoctoral researcher at Fermilab.

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

What is at the origin of dark matter? What is the mass of neutrinos? What is the source of TeV halos? Why is there more matter than antimatter? What is dark energy?

What do you like and dislike about being a scientist?

I love our community. Being a scientist gives me the opportunity to meet wonderful colleagues and work with them in uncovering the hidden secrets of nature.

The downside of being a scientist is the uncertainty of the future.

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

I’m a very determined person, which is useful in our job. Also, I am a fast learner and I adapt very easily to new environments, which comes in handy when you move to new countries and start working in a different research group. I love organizing events and in general my natural social skills make every experience with new people very enjoyable and entertaining.

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

Typically I’m excited at the beginning of new experiences because I love changes. I was excited at the beginning of my doctorate degree because it marked the beginning of my childhood dream to become a scientist. I am excited now that I’ve just started my postdoc at Fermilab because it’s the beginning of a new adventure!

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

I would like to learn more sophisticated statistical methods to analyze data and compare with theoretical predictions.

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

I’m looking forward to the data of new telescopes, like MeerKAT and SKA, as well as e-ROSITA and CTA. I think great science will come out of them!

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

Open access to data should be a priority in our community to accelerate discoveries.

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

I think it’s important that a network like EuCAPT brings together scientists from different institutions and countries as well as highlight the work of young researchers.

What’s your favorite food?

Four cheese pizza, cannoli (a delicious pastries from the south of Italy) and profiteroles (a dessert from the north of Italy).

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 lived in Italy, France and now the United States. I have fond memories of every country and in particular of the people I met along the way. In the astroparticle group of Torino there is a nice tradition to celebrate new publications or promotions by drinking a glass of prosecco. In Paris it was so nice to chat with people in the hallway by looking at the Eiffel Tower from the coffee lounge. Now at Fermilab I’m building up new memories and experiences with my new colleagues and friends, like hanging out in pubs and playing pool together. I strongly believe that what makes a place special is the people that are part of your everyday life and so far I’ve been pretty lucky!

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

I like going for a walk along the shore of Lake Michigan and training at the gym. Also, I love having wine and cheese while admiring a nice sunset.

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

In my free time I love going to the theater and planning my next adventurous trip. Also, I am the President and co-founder of “Soroptimist e-club Milano Net Lead”, a national network of 40 young women focused on female empowerment and education on gender equality. Our activities include the production of educational videos, we organized “STEM” initiatives to encourage girls to enroll in scientific programs. Finally, we are supporting “Project Dignity” in South Africa, which supplies sanitary pads to students in disadvantaged villages near the Kruger National Park, so that they are less likely to drop out of school due to hygiene reasons.

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

I would have a remote job and travel the world.

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

I hope that we will discover the nature of dark matter as well as a way to solve climate change.

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

“What inspired you to pursue a career in science?”.

When I was a child, I used to watch Dexter’s Laboratories and dreamed of becoming a scientist. I’m glad I realized my childhood dream, having the privilege of working with some of the most talented colleagues and giving my contribution to our field.