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Silvia - PhD student (Italian)

“Problem-solving is a big part of science. That’s the fun part of this job; it’s what makes it interesting and challenging.”
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“I’m in the second year of a 3-year thesis contract. On the ESRF’s ID24 beamline I’m trying to understand what happens in the outer core of the Earth. Here we can recreate the extreme conditions of temperature and pressure and then observe, using absorption spectroscopy techniques, how materials behave.

I don’t think I’ve had what you could call a ‘typical’ day since I’ve been here. When I’m working on an experiment, the days and nights are very long. I get one week of beamtime every 6 months and I make sure I use every available minute for my research. In between experiments I’m either preparing for the next one or analysing the data I collected. If a user is working on a subject related to my PhD then I can follow part of their experiment and learn from them. It’s easy to build a network here because you meet so many different people.

I love the atmosphere at the ESRF. There are a lot of young people and I get to meet people from many different horizons. I speak Italian with my supervisors and English with students, users and staff with other nationalities. 

The thing I most appreciate at the ESRF is that the science is always high level, you just cannot reach the same results with university equipment. When a friend of mine came to visit, he said it was like working behind the scenes in a science fiction film. The experimental hall, with all the hi-tech equipment, is very impressive.

Grenoble is great in that it is smaller than Milan, and totally bikeable! Everywhere is within a 15-minute ride. I like the mountains and trail running. Grenoble hosts many sports enthusiasts so I’ve entered a few competitions, but mostly just for fun!”