Passion for knowledge – a personal journey

(Post for Marketing Module)

I can tell you that my personal and professional driver is a passion for knowledge, which is a passion for discovery, for creativity leading to the understanding of Nature. This passion for knowledge translates into a passion for science. What I have discovered during my career progression is that this passion can have different meanings and, above all, many different realizations.

My background is Physics. I did my PhD in Condensed matter Physics, studying electronic excitations in metals. Without a trace of arrogance, I can proudly claim that I did a good job. By the end of my PhD thesis I had it clear that I wanted to go for a post-doc, since I felt I had a promising research career into the canonical academic track. However, my first daughter, Irene, was born, my wife was still finishing her PhD, and I felt that we needed economic stability.

I joined a company, Gamesa Energy. There I was hired as responsible of the international projects for wind farm design. However, the working environment was very different to the free and creative University environment, and the work itself was boring and not very challenging for a recent and proud PhD physicist!!

I was fortunate and found an opportunity to join a technology center in Bilbao. The core of the work and the conditions were closer to my ideal. In Labein I worked as a researcher, but I found myself in a different research field, working with engineers and chemists, even doing experiments, summing up, growing in knowledge, fulfilling my passion for knowledge. By that time, my second daughter, Jana, was born and my wife began working as a medical physicist in a hospital. In Labein, I also worked as a project manager and I learnt that surrounding research are additional parameters and conditions that were not visible to me as a PhD student. I received an exhaustive training in project management, quality assurance, and strategies for funding research. I carried out research projects out of the academic track and found new indicators and parameters, as well as other flavors of research: applied, technological and market oriented. This gave me new insights of the research business. But after six years in Labein I found myself in a very pyramidal organization and I felt that I have touched my ceiling there.

At that time a new door opened in front of me. My thesis supervisor had been appointed director of a new initiative promoted by the Basque Government to create and launch a new research centre in the Basque Country, the cooperative research centre for nanoscience research – NANOGUNE. My thesis supervisor proposed me to join nanoGUNE and help him as his technical assistant. In parallel, the family grew: a new child, Martin, was born. I did not doubt to go with him a single attosecond, although the center would be located in San Sebastian, 100 km away from Bilbao, my hometown. My new boss was the best professional that I had ever found in my career, and the project was of that kind that you find once in a lifetime. Think about it: create a research center from scratch. Now I could put into practice many things I have learnt and in a fresh well-defined way with a person that trusted me and with a person I trusted and admired. I enjoyed three and a half years of intense, hard work with many challenges to face. But the result was successful, nanoGUNE is a leading center in nanoscience research in Spain, and, I have no doubt, will become a world-class research center very soon.

In October 2009, my third daughter, Maite, and last in a series of four children, was born. And I am sure that you already know what I am about to say… Yes!! A new move. By the end of 2009 nanoGUNE had already reached its steady-state stage and my mission was completed. I felt I was ready to move a step forward: from assistant to a director, to a director myself. In December 2009 I was appointed director of Deusto Institute of Technology, DeustoTech, a research Institute that belongs to the University of Deusto, in Bilbao. In this case, the decision was motivated by the project and the position itself, as well as by the proximity to my home and large family after having been commuting 200 km every day for three years and a half. In DeustoTech I was the major responsible for the overall design, strategy and performance of the Institute.

By the end of 2010, I received a job proposal from the University of the Basque Country. They needed a director for the newly recognized Campus of International Excellence – Euskampus. I thought about it in depth and it took more than a month to make a decision. I had just released a new strategic plan for DeustoTech and I wanted to be the responsible for its execution. But in the end I felt that Euskampus could be a much better project and I preferred to be in a public university rather than in a private one. In March 2011 I finally joined the University of the Basque Country to lead Euskampus. No other child was born this time. Therefore I guess that maybe this is my definitive job.

Now I see that every task and responsibility that I accomplished, every job that I took, paved the way for the following job. The path is traced by the steps we walk, or, as the famous Spanish poet Machado once sang: walker, there is no path, you make the path as you walk.

And now you may wonder where that passion for knowledge that I mentioned at the beginning as the driver of my life is in my current position. I have been a researcher in different fields and institutions for several years, which fulfilled my passion for knowledge. Using a musical metaphor, I was a composer and a performer, music being my passion. I have played many different instruments. But now I do not make a sound, and most probably I will not make a sound any more. Where is my passion? I am the conductor of an orchestra, an orchestra of researchers, teachers and students that make the sounds of science. Now my power and my passion is directed to make other people research and discover, to make other people be creative and productive. My passion for knowledge is now directed to awaken the possibility of knowledge and the passion for knowledge in other people.

 


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