Long hours in a lab with long lasers

August 25, 2006

Name : Juan Diego Ania-Castanon. Age: 32. Job: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council advanced research fellow at Aston University.

Background : BSc in physics, MSc in astrophysics, PhD in theoretical physics. I worked as an associate university lecturer in Spain before coming to the UK for a postdoctorate five years ago, working with Aston's Photonics Research Group. I became an EPSRC advanced research fellow in 2005. I have a few projects going on at the moment, one on different potential applications for ultra-long lasers, a new kind of photonic device we have developed at Aston.

Working hours and conditions : When you are doing research you can get quite enthusiastic, so you usually end up working long hours.

Number of students you teach/staff you work with : In terms of research, we are a pretty big group and we interact quite a lot. I co-ordinate a few projects, I deal with some external collaborators and I also take part in research co-ordinated by others, so I work closely with about five to ten different colleagues on a weekly basis. When teaching, I have groups of ten or so students attending the occasional lab or lecture. As for MSc students, I rarely have more than three to supervise.

Biggest challenge this year : Some of our recent research has produced exciting and promising results, and one of my main priorities is to secure funding from external sources to bring additional manpower to the group and to pursue the new research avenues that have been opened.

How you solved it : I am still on it.

Worst moment in university life : Probably during my student days, when I realised that I had completely forgotten about a particularly important examination date, leaving no time for adequate revision.

What is your working space like? Organised chaos.

What university facilities do you use? Library, computer clusters, labs.

Not many of the sports and recreational facilities, though.

Do you socialise with people at the university? Yes. I have met most of my friends in the UK at the workplace.

Do you interact much with other parts of the university? Not as much as I should, probably. Most of my personal interaction on that front comes from being organiser of invited seminars, which provides me with a good opportunity to know more about other people's work.

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