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Community Profile: Filippo Sala

Name: Filippo Sala

Current position: Faculty

Affiliation: University of Bologna and INFN

Field of research: (Astro)Particle physics


What is your career trajectory to date?

2010-13 PhD in physics at Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, with a 6 months visit to LBNL Berkeley

2013-17 CNRS postdoc in Paris, first at IPhT (CEA-Saclay), then at LPTHE (Sorbonne U.)

2017-20 Junior staff at DESY Hamburg

2020-22 Permanent CNRS researcher at LPTHE Paris

2022- Assistant prof. at University of Bologna

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

What is dark matter?

How does Nature work at length scales (much) smaller than a Fermi?

What do you like and dislike about being a scientist?

I love the freedom, I love that I can spend a lot of time trying to satisfy some of my curiosities. I like that the questions that motivate my work go beyond our lifetime -both as individuals and as humanity-, they have somehow a universal value. I like that we frequently travel and meet fun open-minded people with very different backgrounds. I like that we have several chances to transmit our passion and knowledge to students and/or to the general public.

I dislike that I may well never know what lies beyond the current understanding of Nature at the smallest length scales. I dislike the bureaucratisation of our job, and the deep insecurity that is sometimes associated with our careers.

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

I was most excited at the time of the 750 GeV diphoton bump: it was completely unexpected yet it was believable experimentally (clean final state, two independent detectors), and theoretically (not hard to work consistent models for it).

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

I'd like to learn more about extreme astrophysical events, like AGNs, and their observable signals. A related skill (if you can call it such) would be to be able to work those signals out.

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

I look forward to fast progress on a high-energy muon collider, both in its feasibility and eventual funding. Coming to something that will deliver science sooner, I look forward to any data about unexplored territory, for this decade especially from high-energy cosmic rays and from the intensity frontier.

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

Lack of clear experimental evidence for more cracks in the Standard Model.

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

I can think of many: federating the scientific and training efforts of individuals and groups, being a collector of opportunities (jobs, visits, collaborations, conferences, schools, availability of public data), creating new ones, giving to theorists more weight in the scientific and public debates.

What’s your favorite food?

Hard to pick one! I love Italian food and definitely take advantage of having moved back to Italy, so I stay on what I'd like to have more: baguette tradition (I still haven't found decent ones here!) and croissant au beurre, soft French cheeses, good ramen.

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?

France and Germany. And I am lucky to have so many fond memories! From big music festivals to little parisian theaters, from afterwork climbing sessions with the DESY physicists to after-games parties with the rugby teammates in Paris.

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

After a day of work I love playing with my kid and wife. I usually have to wait until the weekend to relax in other ways, like spending time in nature and doing sport, better if with friends.

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

I would be spending more time on challenges like sustainable energy and environment preservation and enhancement. I think I'd be working on anything between nuclear fusion/fission and, say, agricultural policies.

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

Experiments telling us something more about how Nature works at smaller length scales.

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

What can we scientists do, beyond advancing and transmitting knowledge, to improve our societies? I suspect we could put more effort in making fact-based quantitative reasoning a necessary ingredient of the public debate and of policy making. Coming to which particular effort, I wish I had a precise answer! More education and outreach seem obvious, but how? And what else?


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