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Mathematics
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Marie Cutie Postdoctoral Fellow, NUI Galway

Valentina Balbi

Job title
Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow in Applied Maths
Company
NUI Galway
Industry
Academia
Experience
Two and a half years after finishing PhD
Education
  1. BSc in Applied Mathematics
  2. MSc in Applied Mathematics
  3. PhD in Theoretical Solid Mechanics
Favourite subjects in school
Maths and philosophy
The best thing about my job
I get to meet new people and travel a lot. Even though you might think it’s a boring and a static job this is actually very exciting and stimulating. It gives you the freedom to think and answer questions to interesting problems.

Creativity and problem-solving are the most useful skills for a research fellow. On top of that, if you like science and you’re driven by a true passion, you have everything you need!

Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know

My main tasks

My main task is to solve new problems, using mathematics. I first translate a question related to a real world problem into equations by using the language of mathematics. And then I calculate the solution to those equations which is also the answer to the problem. Once I have the answer, my task becomes to write a scientific paper about the problem and its solution where I explain all the details so that other scientists can learn from it.. The scientific community is like a big family where we share and learn from each other. As part of my job I also  teach, supervise students and participate in outreach activities with the general public, families and children to bring science outside the scientific community.

Challenges

Sometimes it can take a long time (even years!) to find the solution to a problem; you've got to be very patient and stubborn!

Who influenced me

I’ve always had good teachers and supervisors who inspired and encouraged me to follow my passion for science and mathematics.

Work/life balance

A research fellow has a lot of flexibility with the working hours. This can turn into working more than required (especially when a deadline is approaching), and often neglecting to rest and relax! Having other passions besides science is what forces me to stop and get out of the office at the end of the day, even when I’d like to keep working to finish the “last” calculation or the “last” section of a paper

Most useful aspects of my education

My training in applied maths and the six-month internship abroad at the end of my Masters were very useful altogether. If you get the chance to spend time abroad during your studies, go for it! It will open new perspectives and opportunities, you will get the chance to discover new approaches to science and problem solving.

Useful work experience 

Any experience in the science domain would be good. I did a two-week summer internship during high school in the blood analysis unit in the hospital of my home-town. Even though it wasn’t related to maths, the internship brought me closer to the domain of application I now work on.

Top tip

 Think outside the box, follow your own logic and listen to your intuition. Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. Be patient and dedicated.