During the IYBSSD 24-hour online event, a team from European XFEL prepared a series of interview with early career scientists
Hello, I’m Monica Turcato. I’m the head of the detector group at the European X-ray in Schenefeld in Germany. The detector group takes care of the detectors of the European XFEL, which are basically large cameras. Their scope is to record the X-rays. The X-rays come from the machine, hit the sample that we want to study, and we basically record the images out of them with our detectors.
How can policymakers help to develop science and scientific research?
I think they have to think ahead. Normally, policymakers, they are elected and their mandate is four or five years. And if you invest in science, you cannot expect to have an immediate return after four or five years. The return time is much longer. But what happens is that if you invest in science, science gives you all that makes your future better. If you think about fundamental science, of course, you’re farther away from what impacts on your normal life. But if you look to science, which is more applied, like for example, what we do at the European XFEL, where we study to find out the structure of viruses, where we study materials to have, for example, better batteries in the future, or better memories for your computer. This is something if you do an experiment today, you cannot expect an outcome tomorrow, not even at the duration of the mandate of a politician. But you have to invest now to have the outcome and what makes your life better in 10 years from now. And especially now that we live in a context where we see climate changes, and environmental problems and sustainability is becoming very important. Finding a more efficient way also to use our energy is vital. And on that, it’s only science which can help.
How can we build a more diverse scientific research community?
Yeah, that’s a really difficult question because, I really like to say scientific community because I think something like races is, I wouldn’t say non-existing, but really low, because what we care is that we can work with a person and the person works well with us. This is independent on gender, on race, on colour, on sexual orientation, anything. This is what we normally care and this is what I experience in my daily life. If we think about minorities and the diverse environment, so I have the fortune to work at the European XFEL where I meet people of basically a lot of countries.
If we go more specific, and in my case, I’m a woman, and still in sciences like physics, the women are quite underrepresented. This cannot be solved by, let’s say, hiring more female scientists or physicists at the European XFEL, because they are already much less than men out of the university. In physics, there are 15% of women. You cannot expect that then in the research institute you have 50 %, this doesn’t work. I think what really helps in this respect is stimulating and encouraging girls to go in this direction because they have the capability. It’s not that they are worse than men in this respect. And also seeing, I think, example of women who can do this work well. I think we have many around. And girls shouldn’t be discouraged by the fact that it’s a tough job, that it’s difficult to have a family if you have this kind of a job. There are a lot of ladies who are good medicine doctors, and this is also a very challenging job, and I don’t think it’s less difficult than being a physicist. It’s just that women think, culturally think, they are more used and good to in works that imply taking care of people. But I think also science, women and science make a very good match because they bring a lot of… They bring a different perspective and they bring their common sense, they bring their capabilities also there. I think encouraging girls since the young age and giving them good example could be really a good way to increase the number of women in science like physics, for example.