It is a great pleasure to announce that the Spring 2015 EPS Emmy Noether Distinction for Women in Physics goes to Prof. Anna Fontcuberta i Morral, Institut des Matériaux, EPFL, Switzerland. Prof. Fontcuberta i Morral has made pioneering contributions to the physics of semiconductor nanostructures and their applications in mesoscopic physics and energy harvesting.
After a PhD in Materials Science at the Ecole Polytechnique (France), and a postdoctoral contract at the California Institute of Technology (CIT), she obtained a permanent position as Research Fellow at CNRS, in 2003. She returned to CIT as visiting professor and co-founded Aonex Technologies, a startup company developing special substrates that reduce the production cost of Light Emitting Diodes, power amplifiers, and solar cells.
Her achievements have been recognized in highly competitive grants (i.e., Marie Curie Excellence Grant, ERC Starting Grant and SNF Consolidator Grant), in high impact journal publications and conference invited talks. Since 2014 she is an Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the EPFL, a profession combining her passion for research and for teaching.
We present a short interview between Anna Fontecuberta i Morral [AFM] and Lucia Di Ciaccio [LDC], chair of the Equal Opportunities Committee of the EPS, in June 2015.
LDC: During your studies and later, did you feel that there were equal opportunities for boys and girls?
AFM: Until my postdoc I felt I was treated equally. Afterwards I saw differences in treatment. I believe these differences depend also on the culture of the country and of the institution.
LDC: You have worked in different countries. Have you found differences about the role of women physicists in these countries?
AFM: The place where I felt I was treated the most equal with men was at CalTech in the United States, followed by my current university, EPFL, in Switzerland. In general, I believe Europe still has some progress to do in this respect. In some places women are still taken less seriously than men in equivalent stages of career.
LDC: Do you believe that physics should positively discriminate in favour of women?
AFM: This is a difficult point to answer. In an ideal world one should not need this. Still, it is shown that in general women are negatively discriminated in many selection processes especially in physical sciences and in engineering and one should do something about it. Some kind of positive discrimination may help, if extremely qualified women benefit from it.
LDC: Do you have any advice for young women starting a career in physics?
ALH: Do what you love, life is too short to waste it on anything else; and find a good mentor.