Community profile: Miguel Sánchez-Conde

Name: Miguel Sánchez-Conde

Current position: Faculty

Affiliation: IFT UAM-CSIC

Field of research: Dark matter, astroparticle physics and cosmology

What is your career trajectory to date?

I got my B.Sc. degree in Astrophysics from Universidad de La Laguna (Tenerife, Spain) back in 2004, and my PhD in October 2009 at the Andalusian Institute for Astrophysics & University of Granada. Right after that, I started my postdoctoral experience at the Canary Islands Institute of Astrophysics. One year and a half later I moved to California to start a second postdoc at KIPAC/SLAC, Stanford University. In September 2014, I moved back to Europe as a 'Wenner-Gren' postdoctoral fellow at the Oskar Klein Centre, Stockholm University. Finally, in March 2017, I joined the Institute for Theoretical Physics at Madrid Autonomous University (IFT UAM-CSIC) as a “Comunidad de Madrid Atracción de Talento” senior researcher and founded my own research group, currently composed by several PhD students and postdocs.

What are the most exciting open questions in your research area? The nature of the dark matter particle is still a mistery to us, and the big question not only in my field but also for Science in general. Also, I'm particularly interested in shedding light at the smallest scales predicted by the standard cosmological model, yet unrevealed to us and thus still open to debate.

What do you like and dislike about being a scientist? I love Science and thus love being a scientist. I always did and I still enjoy my job every day. The freedom I have to choose interesting projects; the excitement I feel every time we start working on something new or every time we find something unexpected; the beauty of solving (either minor or major) scientific puzzles once the hard work is done... All of it is priceless. Also, being a scientist allowed me to travel all over the globe and meet other cultures and lots of interesting people. Probably the only thing I dislike about this profession is not having enough time to enjoy the details as much as I should. Indeed, I believe that the pressing need to publish works at a high rate makes the scientist's life not as enjoyable as it could/should be, especially for young people. It is also easy to fall into a swirl of crazy work at all times, hurting you and your loved ones in the process. I always find it difficult to meet the right balance between work and anything else.

Which of your skills are you most proud of, or find most useful? My background as an astrophysicist/cosmologist turned out to be particularly useful to build bridges between this discipline and the field of astroparticle physics, where I carry out my dark matter research. Being in between these two fields always helped me to find new avenues for further research, not obvious for others. Also, I believe I am good at connecting and coordinating people, efforts and tasks.

In your career so far, at what point were you the most excited, and what were you excited about? I was very excited when I became a member of the Fermi-LAT Collaboration in 2011 when I was a postdoc at KIPAC/SLAC, Stanford. Back then, many of us started to understand the great capabilities of the LAT in the search for dark matter via gamma rays. We performed the first LAT data analyses of the best astrophysical targets for our dark matter search, such as dwarf galaxies, the Galactic center, galaxy clusters, the extragalactic gamma-ray background... It was all 'terra incognita' and we all had lots of fun in Stanford, the epicenter of Fermi-LAT science in the world. I was also particularly excited around 2013-14 when I first realized of an important property of the inner structure of low-mass dark matter subhalos that people had not noticed before. I enjoyed every step in its understanding and characterization, as well as the corresponding dissemination of results.

What new skills would you like to learn in the next year? I would like to have a further insight on machine learning techniques that I could use for my and my group's research. I'd also like to acquire a more solid background on statistical issues relevant to my field of research.

What advances or new results are you excited about or looking forward to? I am still optimistic that we will soon discover the nature of dark matter and that gamma rays will play a major role in this discovery. I am also looking forward to definitely provide support to the standard cosmological model via the discovery of low-mass, dark galactic subhalos.

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

What role do you think a community network like EuCAPT can play in developing theoretical astroparticle physics and cosmology in Europe? In my view, EuCAPT possesses a great potential to connect members in our community with similar research interests or common needs, to strenghten the links between the different groups and to canalize and coordinate big research efforts whenever needed. In this context, EuCAPT can be particularly helpful for young people as well.

What’s your favorite food? I love^2 Spanish ham ;-)

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 the US for 3 years and in Sweden for 5 years. Not only me but also my wife and kids had a lot of fun in both countries. Such a great people, such a great wilderness. We never stopped exploring them. Thus, fortunately, I have hundreds of 'golden' memories to share!

How do you like to relax after a hard day of work? Nothing like enjoying a glass of good Spanish red wine and good music at the sunset with my wife.

Do you have any non-physics interests that you would like to share? I have many! I love birdwatching. I am absolutely mad about soccer. I love music (rock, jazz). I also enjoy reading (mostly history) books. My family's passion is to travel.

If you were not a scientist, what do you think you would be doing? I can't imagine it but I guess I'd be reading and writing about History.

What do you hope to see accomplished scientifically in the next 50 years? The discovery of the nature of the dark matter particle.