Another year is about to finish, however this year was very special to me since it was the very first full year that my family and I spent in Mexico after living in Germany and the UK. Overall, it was a very rewarding year. In January I was very happy to receive two very hard-working PhD students, Pedro and Félix. Despite not having an MSc in Materials Science, both of them have done a marvellous job, to the point that next year we are expecting to submit our first papers in very good journals due to the quality of their results. In August, our group received also a self-driving student, Monserrat. Although she is currently working closely with Dr. Joaquín Barroso from the National University (UNAM), her arrival completed the three lines of research that I have envisioned at my arrival in Mexico. From here, I hope to build up our group with new and hopefully equally as good students. We are still in the hopes that Margarito, an MSc student, will survive her exams and joint us in August for his MSc dissertation. Additionally, during the summer this year, I had a lot of fun with the visit of three young and enthusiastic students: Lino, Yamilet and Valeria. They surely brought new life to our group and definitively made my PhD students work harder. Thanks to them our outreach webpage in Facebook reached 2,000 views EACH DAY. Unfortunately, with their departure our numbers have not been this good. I am still hopeful we can get similar students this year, and with a bit of luck have any of these three as permanent postgraduate student at Cinvestav.
This year also brought a new challenge in the classroom. I had to teach a completely new subject, covering areas that were not my strength. I recognise that it was not as good as I would have liked to if I were the student, but now I have the basic notes that I can improve. I just feel sorry for experimenting a bit with them. In 2014, I will be teaching a new course: “Materials Under Extreme Conditions”. Fortunately, this is closer to home so I feel more confident than the previous course. This lecture will be part of our brand new MSc course on Sustainability of the Natural Resources and Energy. This course started in August and it was the culmination of many long meetings and discussions. Better yet, this new program received the recognition of the National Council of Science and Technology, meaning that all our students can have access to scholarships and free education.
In the area of funding, I had the great pleasure of obtaining our first grant: UCMEXUS. This US-Mexico Grant was submitted as collaboration between Cinvestav-Saltillo and University of California-San Diego. In particular, we are going to be working with an old friend and colleague Romelia Salomon.
Although I had a good number of disappointments on my applications for funding, I hope next year we can land more funding, especially with the industry, which so far seems to be very enthusiastic to start a project with us.
This year I also saw some travelling. Early this year I gave a couple of seminars at the National Institute of Nuclear Research (ININ) and the Joint Centre for Research in Sustainable Chemistry (CCIQS). However, the last couple of months is where I have been away the most. In November I had the opportunity to participate in the International Seminar of the Academy of Engineering in Chihuahua and an outreach seminar at Cinvestav-Queretaro. I must thank the colleagues that invited me: Ivan Salmeron and Samuel Perez from Chihuahua, and Angel Hernández from Cinvestav-Queretaro. Similarly, just a couple of weeks ago I got invited to participate as part of the Evaluation Committee of a call for proposals from the National Council of Science and Technology at Mexico City. I was very surprised to receive this invitation but also very pleased, especially since I had the chance to have a say on the projects that would be funded on that particular call. I hope this invitation was not a one-off and that I can be part of them more frequently.
Next year seems interesting. I already have invitations to give Seminars in Colima, Tabasco and Aguascalientes, three states in Mexico. In August 2014 I will be organising a Symposium on Nuclear Materials at the XXIII International Materials Research Congress in Cancun, Mexico. I hope some of my old colleagues accept my invitation to come and give us a talk.
Although my health is not at its best (I am writing this on my bed and not exactly because I want to stay here), I feel grateful for all the good things that happened this year.
I want to wish anyone who reads this blog a very happy 2014, full of success but above all health.