Dr. Débora Desbaillets-Bonvin
I grew up with the dream of healing people, but somehow, medicine wasn’t for me. I thus graduated with a Master’s in Bioengineering from the then new Life Science Faculty at EPFL. For my PhD, I joined the Powder Technology Laboratory working with Prof. Heinrich Hofmann on iron oxide nanoparticles for cancer detection and treatment. I developed magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles with optimal physico-chemical properties for their use as MRI contrast agents and simultaneously as heat generators for tumor lysis by hyperthermia. I also focused on novel biocompatible coatings to control nanoparticles’ stability, protein binding in biological fluids and cellular toxicity. I really appreciated participating in this multi-disciplinary medical project integrating knowledge from physicists, chemists, material scientists and bioengineers. I also gained a lot of experience in the diversity of this national project, involving scientific, industrial and medical partners. I obtained a scholarship from the European Cooperation in Science and Technology in the framework of the Horizon 2020 program, which allowed me to deepen my knowledge in magnetic properties of materials during an exchange at the University of Zaragoza in Spain.
After obtaining my PhD in 2017, I joined the center of excellence in particle detection in the R&D department of Janssen, Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical branch, exploiting my knowledge in particle technology. In this scientific and managerial role, I particularly enjoy working in a fast-evolving, complex and global environment, supporting the development of Janssen’s advanced biotherapeutics ranging from high value antibody-based products to innovative cell-therapies and vaccines.
Throughout my different experiences, I have developed broad knowledge and skills across many fields. From the beginning of my time at EPFL, I have been trained to build bridges and bring expertise together. This skill has offered me great opportunities at important junctions of my professional path. Continuous learning and remaining flexible are, from my point of view, essential to keep doors open to new challenges. Finally, technical skills are important, but not only! Developing and building soft skills are key in a competitive and fast-moving environment. Use the resources and opportunities offered at EPFL to connect and meet people, participate to events and learn to communicate your passions to others. Be proactive, people will not build your life path for you!
Dr. Antimo Marrazzo
I did my PhD with Prof. Nicola Marzari at the Laboratory of Theory and Simulations of Materials (THEOS), working on electronic-structure simulations of novel materials, with a focus on two-dimensional systems and topological insulators. I completed the PhD in November 2019 with a thesis on “Electronic Structure and Topology of Novel Materials” that won the EPFL EDMX Doctoral Program Thesis distinction (awarded to the top 8% PhD theses). During my PhD I had a lot of fun discovering novel exotic materials with quantum mechanical simulations, in particular I focused on materials where the inner electrons orbit at extremely high speed around the nucleus that one needs to include corrections due to Einstein’s special relativity to describe their electronic properties. These so-called topological materials have also exciting properties that could lead to low-consumption electronic and spintronic devices, in addition to being relevant to develop robust quantum computing platforms.
After the PhD, the pandemic hit the world and I stayed at EPFL until late summer 2020 for a short post-doc at THEOS where I started to explore and develop machine-learning techniques to accelerate electronic-structure calculations. After undergraduate studies in condensed-matter physics in Trieste (Italy, my home country) and a PhD in computational materials science at EPFL, I got very fond of machine learning and intrigued by the idea of applying my research background as a computational scientist in industry, so I spent a couple of months in the private sector working on predictive analysis and artificial intelligence for digital innovation.
In the meantime, I got a position as a “junior” assistant professor (“RTDa”) in theoretical condensed-matter physics at the University of Trieste where I started in April 2021. Here, I carry out my independent research activity on novel quantum materials, electronic-structure theory and machine learning, in addition to teach at the university level.
I do not particularly feel entitled to give advices to anyone, although I can report on my personal experience. A PhD at EPFL EDMX has been a fantastic experience and opportunity, it changed my life (for the better!) and contributed substantially to define me both professionally and personally. As a PhD student at EDMX EPFL I could cultivate my creativity and live in an incredibly stimulating intellectual environment. Professional pathways after the PhD are very hard to predict in general and there is a lot of randomness and personal aspects involved, but a PhD at EDMX will likely lead you to a very interesting place, being that in industry, academia, education or entrepreneurship.
Dr. Christian Monachon
I earned my PhD working with Dr. Ludger Weber and Prof. Andreas Mortensen at the Laboratory of Mechanical Metallurgy in 2013. My PhD thesis’ main push was on understanding phonon transfer between metals and dielectrics, which awarded me the 2015 René Wasserman award. My thirst in further understanding phonon transport prompted me to get an early postdoc.mobility fellowship to go explore tunable thermal conductivity materials with Prof Chris Dames at the University of California, Berkeley. I then had the opportunity to come back in Switzerland to develop advanced electron microscopy tools dedicated to cathodoluminescence spectroscopy, which I took starting at Attolight AG in 2016. This position allows me to constantly expand my expertise in science and spectroscopy in particular, through customer interactions as well as SNF and EU funded projects. It also allows me to build an in-depth understanding of the semiconductor metrology and academic business markets.
My pieces of advice
They can be summarized in three statements:
- Have a goal – but be flexible and change it according to what life gives you
- Be curious and go see the world – it’s worth it!
- Take every opportunity you have to intern and see new things professionally