Prof. Dr. Silvana Botti
»I didn’t want to just know names of things. I remember really wanting to know how it all worked.«
1998 · First degree
University of Pavia, Italy
2002 - Doctoral Studies
University of Pavia, Italy
2002 - 2010 · Postdoc
Ecole Polytechnique, Paris
2010 · Habilitation
University of Lyon 1
2014 · Professorship
What do you like about your work as a researcher? Why did you decide to become a researcher?
Since I was a child I like to solve problems, to be the first to explain why something happens in a certain way, and I like to think that what I do is potentially useful for the whole society. I am happy to go to work every morning and I have fun in doing my work.
Who were /are the role models who influenced your career choice?
Physicists are usually seen as socially awkward characters, funny dressed, with their heads constantly in the clouds. I do not think that I was influenced by role models, I always had clear ideas on what I liked to do. However, if I think about a person who was important in my career choices and that I have always admired, she is my PhD co-advisor Lucia Reining.
Who or what gave you the most encouragement along your way to achieving your current position? Whose support, or what support, was most important for you?
When I was a student, my father, who taught me that working hard and being ambitious was the key to obtain what-ever I wanted to achieve. More recently, my husband, who is also a physicist and he is my collaborator at work and an exceptional support at home with our three children.
Has your career progressed smoothly in a linear way? If not, how have you overcome distractions of obstacles?
I think that my career progressed rather smoothly and the reason is that when I started my PhD I understood that it was necessary to leave Italy and be mobile all over Europe in order to have opportunities. I was lucky enough to get a permanent position as a researcher at CNRS in France before turning 30 years old.
An academic career often seems to be one of great uncertainty. Has this been the case for you? If so, how did you deal with the uncertainties that faced you?
Not really, as I had a permanent job in France when I was still relatively young. However, my husband did not have a permanent job at the time and the problem to have two permanent jobs in the same field was not easy to solve. When it comes with dealing with uncertainty or difficult choices, my husband and I decided to set few priorities that are not going to be discussed and accept compromises about all the rest. The good strategy is not to think too much about possible problems that may arise and focus on realistic objectives.
How important is networking to your career? Do you have a particular strategy for networking?
Networking is very important. I was introduced to the community during my PhD, thanks to the participation in some European projects. I found many friends and collaborators, that are still precious friends and collaborators nowadays.
How do you manage to balance a demanding career with a private life?
I do not have any funny hobby, I have little time for sport or other activities. When I do not work I spend all the time with my three children.
What tips would you offer young women starting out on an academic career? Could you offer some Dos and Don’ts?
I can just advise young women to think for themselves, and be confident in what they do not to give up their dreams too easily. And don't let anybody tell them that they have to choose between a career and a family.
Do female academics of the University of Jena feel comfortable in their roles? What makes the University of Jena attractive for you?
The University of Jena has an excellent physics faculty. It is a dynamical and stimulating environment for research, especially for my research area. But I was surprised to see that there are so few women Professors, as the situation is very different in France. I can see that Germany is making a big effort to increase the number of women professors.