Dr Alicia Moya Cuenca was born in Cuenca, Spain. She joined IMDEA Materials in 2013, where she completed her PhD thesis entitled “Hybrid systems based on metal oxide and nanocarbons: electronic properties and applications for photocatalysis” under the supervision of Dr. Juan J. Vilatela. Afterwards, she worked at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and she is currently a postdoctoral researcher at ISTerre-Université Grenoble-Alpes.
Question: To begin this interview, we would like to know how your scientific vocation was born and in which institutions you have studied.
I would say my scientific vocation started when I was a child. I remember my curiosity about nature as well as with the new technological devices that were appearing at that time. Then, in primary and high school, I already knew that I wanted to study sciences, but I was torn between several disciplines, from math to biology. Finally, I decided to study chemistry at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, specialising in Materials Chemistry.
Question: Looking back now, what do you think was your greatest accomplishment during your time at IMDEA Materials?
I think my greatest accomplishment was opening a new research line in a promising topic (hybrid materials for photocatalytic hydrogen production) within a new research group which worked together to set up the MNG group with successful research results.
Question: What do you value most about your time here from a personal point of view?
I really appreciated the close environment that was created in IMDEA Materials at that time, which made the work place almost like a family. I formed several friendships while I was at IMDEA people with whom I am still in close contact today. We sometimes still reminisce about our time together there!
Question: IMDEA Materials places a focus on developing our researchers’ transversal skills or so-called “soft skills”. How important do you think these skills are for a researcher to develop and which do you think you possess? Also, if given the opportunity to learn some new ones, which ones would you chose?
I think that doing research implies the development of several skills such as scientific and technical knowledge, teamwork as well as writing reports and presenting research results in congress. However, there are other points that are also required to develop an effective career plan such as project, people and time management skills.
Question: What career advice or message would you give to PhD students or early post-docs?
I would suggest taking on a research project that you are genuinely curious about, as this will make your work more enjoyable. Very importantly, helping and supporting your colleagues will be very beneficial during your PhD or postdoc stay. Also, I would recommend exploring possibilites for collaborations with academic researchers or industrial partners, which will be very relevant for your future career.