CDT Student Interviews – Spotlight on Joaquín García de la Cruz

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The series of 'CDT Spotlight Interviews' gives you a personal insight into work, motivation and challenges of our students. For this interview we have spoken with Joaquín García de la Cruz who joined the CDT in 2017.

Why are you interested in Physics?

“If something interests me I like to get to the bottom of it, understand it inside-out. Thanks to physics and astrophysics I can get a better understanding of many things. Once you learn it, you realise how much Physics is behind almost everything. From things we see around us in our daily life to big questions such as “Where do we come from?”, or “How does the universe work, and what is our place within it?”. Astrophysics in particular is very much about answering those questions.”

Why do you think Big Data is important?

“It is the natural next step of science, technology and therefore society. In an era where we are able to collect more and more data it’s becoming crucial to know how to manage and analyse all that data properly. Although Big Data techniques began as solutions to very particular problems a lot of different disciplines are starting to see their benefits. It can help us to solve problems and challenges that remained unsolved for a long time and would potentially benefit a lot of people. On the other hand, as with any new technology, it can be used to perpetuate or refine mechanisms that make the world an unfair place. If you want to change it from inside you need to know how it works. So, both accomplishing the good applications and stopping the bad ones are reasons to get into Big Data.”

What were your biggest misconceptions about working as a researcher before starting your PhD?

“I think I had scientists a bit idealised in general. I thought they were impartial, but we are humans and we all grow up in societies which are not always perfect. Everyone is influenced by the things that happen around them. This has an effect on how they conduct themselves and the way they can influence collaborations, department dynamics and even research itself.“

Which of your experiences or achievements would you use to recommend pursuing a PhD?

“Some of the happiest moments along my PhD come up whenever I pause to appreciate that nobody else has done what I am doing. Whatever comes out of my research will be completely new and I will be expanding the limits of human knowledge. As little as it may be, it will be worth it.”

Has your PhD experience so far convinced you to pursue an academic career or are you more interested in applying your skills in industry?

“At the beginning I didn’t see the private sector as an option for me. Later on, especially after the industrial placement, I see it as an option that has many advantages over academia. As things are now, I will try to pursue an academic career knowing that the private sector is an excellent place to fall into if things don’t work out.“

Has Covid-19 impacted your research?

“The impossibility of doing meetings in person with my supervisor is one of the things with the highest impact in my opinion. There are other things, like exchanging ideas with other colleagues at the office and everything that has to do with the social part of going to the department, additionally conferences and schools are excellent opportunities to put your research out there, get new ideas, start collaborations, and meet the person who is likely to offer you a job or send you an application call. Now that everything is online it will not be the same.”

At this point in your PhD, what is the achievement you are most proud of?

“A PhD is hard. It doesn’t have many rewarding moments and progress is slow. That is why being patient, knowing to celebrate small victories, and to persevere, are key to make it through. Basically, you develop a lot of resilience and mental toughness. That, together with the analytic skills –i.e. the mindset—, are things that will accompany me for the rest of my life.”