Community Profile: Mariam Tórtola

Name: Mariam Tórtola

Current position: Faculty

Affiliation: IFIC (CSIC/Universitat de València) and Theoretical Physics Department (Universitat de València)

Field of research: Neutrino physics phenomenology


What is your career trajectory to date?

After my PhD at IFIC (Valencia, Spain), I worked as postdoctoral researcher at IST (Lisbon, Portugal) and Hamburg University (Germany). Next, I came back to Spain with a senior postdoctoral position and got a tenure track position (Ramón y Cajal) in 2015. Since 2020 I am Associate Professor at IFIC and Theoretical Physics Department at Valencia University.

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

The nature of neutrinos, the mechanism responsible for the generation of neutrino masses, the violation of CP symmetry in the leptonic sector and its connection with the matter-antimatter asymmetry of the universe.

What do you like and dislike about being a scientist?

I do not enjoy tough competition among scientists. I understand that some degree of competition is inherent to science and it has driven progress in research, but strong competition has also a dark side. I feel more comfortable in more collaborative and less aggressive environments.

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

I am a very organized and thorough person, which is useful for me to be able to deal with the different tasks and responsibilities of my job: teaching, research, administration, mentoring, outreach...

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

My PhD times were very exciting. During this period, we learned a lot about neutrino oscillations thanks to many experiments as Super-Kamiokande, SNO or KamLAND.

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

I am very curious about deep learning techniques applied to particle physics. I hope to have some time to learn a little about this topic.

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

The observation of coherent elastic neutrino-nucleus scattering (CEvNS) has provided an extremely useful tool to explore neutrino phenomenology beyond the Standard Model.

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

I don't feel like there is a slowdown in my research field at the moment. In my opinion, there is a significant experimental effort on many fronts that will contribute to the development of the field.

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 contribute very significantly to the exchange of ideas within the european community.

What’s your favorite food?

I am a big fan of italian pasta and pizza. A conference in Italy always has an added attraction.

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 have been very lucky to have lived in such wonderful cities as Lisbon and Hamburg, although I must confess that I really suffered from the lack of light in the winter of Hamburg.

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

I like chatting with my kids about their day, and reading a book with them or alone after dinner.

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

On weekends I like to go for a walk in the mountains with my family or go on a motorcycle route with my husband.

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

I think I would be a teacher and, probably, I would be involved in politics at some level.

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

I hope that most of the unknowns about neutrino physics today will be solved: their Dirac or Majorana nature, their connection with the baryon asymmetry of the universe,... I also hope the nature of dark matter will be discovered by then.