Caterina Soldano, Aalto University

Assistant professor

"Being flexible and open to possibilities is key; sometimes life happens around us, and we need to be ready to grab opportunities and go with the flow!"

Caterina Soldano, assistant professor.

What have you studied and what influenced this choice back in the day?

I have studied Physics throughout all my career, starting form a scientific-oriented high school (with a lot of physics and math) through university and doctoral studies, up to this day. 

I remember being quite unsure about my choice in high-school; by exclusion (what I basically I think I did not want to do) I was able to narrow it down to either physics and foreign language and literature (I wanted to learn about new culture and speak languages). I remember my high-school physics teacher suggesting me “why don´t you get to get a scientific degree and then, with that degree, you can go and live wherever you wish”. That was a great and timely suggestion.  

What was your first job after graduation? How did you end up in your current position from there?

I really did not know what I wanted to do after my graduation. I met a friend from my department who was doing his PhD abroad, and while talking, he said “Why don’t you apply for a PhD at my university?” I thought this could have a been a good opportunity to live abroad, improving my language skills, all this while getting another degree…little did I know I was going to fall in love with science and research. 

After that, I had several working experiences in different places and all related to physics and science; when I thought I was probably too old or it was too late to land an academic position, well Aalto gave me an opportunity.

What is the best thing about your job?

The things I like the most about my job are interacting with students and researchers around me and writing papers. Challenging and being challenged in scientific topics is extremely stimulating, and interaction with others always bring another perspective to the discussion, and there is always something to learn. The same is for writing papers: for me, it is a time in can fully dedicate to read literature, analyze data and think about the physics behind my problem and trying to make sense out of it.

What have been the highlights and key lessons of your career?

It is hard to identify the highlights of my career, because at every step I continued to learn and enjoy my work. There is one paper that I am extremely proud, which is a review paper on my doctoral thesis topic and on which I have been working for several years, even after my studies. 

Many have been the lessons learnt along the way, but above all, being flexible and open to possibilities is key; sometimes life happens around us, and we need to be ready to grab opportunities and go with the flow!

What are your plans and goals in the future?

It is hard to know what the future holds for me, but I will certainly continue with science until I will still enjoy it and find it stimulating; on the other hand, I also have alternative plans for the future and these are not science-related.

What kind of person is suitable for your profession?

Passion and curiosity to start with, and then patience since academic career is often not at all a straightforward path. And now, in my new role, time management skills have become crucial. 

Your greetings for young women in high school deliberating their future career?

“Find out what excites you, what makes you curious and passionate and give it a try! and why not, if you can try to make it a profession, that will be even better.” 

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