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Women in Science: Sara M. Vidal Álvarez

General Spain

Sara Vidal obtained her Physics Bachelor in Salamanca University and later a M.S. degree in Photonics and Lasers in Santiago de Compostela University. Currently, she is working in AIMEN Technology Centre, as part of the Laser Microprocessing group.

When did you realise that you wanted to pursue a career in a science and technology field? What were your motivations to make this decision?
In my case, Science has been continuously related to my education, as my parents both studied Science Bachelor’s degrees. Also, during School and High School stages, science courses always seemed easier to me. But the very first moment I realized I wanted to be a Science researcher was during my Bachelor. In particular, it was the first time in a real Physics laboratory where teachers let us all alone to figure out on our owns how to achieve a solution for the proposed problems on real applications.

Give an overview of your professional path.
I obtained my Physics Bachelor in Salamanca University (Spain), having two scholarships in Caen-Basse Normandie University (France) and Zaragoza University (Spain) for 1 year each. Then, obtained a M.S. degree in Photonics and Lasers in Santiago de Compostela University (Spain), doing a 6 months experimental internship in CEIT research centre (San Sebastián, Spain). There I worked with a femtosecond laser for direct writing on Fused Silica for creating specific diffractive gratings. After that, AIMEN Technology Centre hired me for the Laser Microprocessing group, where I continue my work with ultrafast lasers.

Provide a short overview of your job. What are your main responsibilities?
My work in AIMEN technology centre is based in material microprocessing with ultrafast lasers, for the experimental development of national and international funded projects or for providing specific services for private companies.
The main processes that are carried out in our laser laboratories are surface texturing, micromachining, micro-cutting, or multiphoton polymerization. All these processes are applied over a large range of materials like metal foils or inserts, silicone rubbers, photosensitive resins, transparent polymeric films or glass, among many others.
Nevertheless, apart from the technological development of the projects and services, I’m also involved in the administrative work for their coordination and management. During these five years in AIMEN, this is the field where I have learned the most because of the great experience AIMEN has acquired as leaders and coordinators of European and national projects. This is not the most exciting part of the job but it is a very important part to properly carry out the projects, and to achieve specific conclusions that could help to achieve future projects or collaborations.

What do you find the most rewarding in your job? What do you find the most challenging in your job?
From my point of view, working in the laser laboratories is the most rewarding part of the job, as it represents both the most challenging and satisfying sides of the project. Working out your mind to find a solution, and discovering that your solution can give a successful result makes me enjoy my job every day more and more (despite not every time a successful result is obtained).

What is your role within the PHENOmenon project? How do you expect your work in PHENOmenon project to contribute to your career development?
In the PHENOmenon project, most of my time is dedicated to the experimental work in the laser laboratory, for fabricating 3D microstructures with the multiphoton polymerization technique. Also, I sometimes help my colleagues with the administrative part of the Project.
This project is giving me more expertise with the multiphoton polymerization technique, as well as collaborative skills for working in multidisciplinary and multicultural research groups. Likewise, working with big private companies gives the other side of R&D&I where the end users get connected with our ideas and our technologies.

What would you advice to girl students that want to pursue a career in a science and technology field?
For many people, Science and Technology are very hard fields to study and to work in. Some people still think it is not made for women. But if girls believe that this is the path they want to follow, they should encourage themselves and go ahead to get what they really want. They just need to do their best and fight for their right to work on what they want.