This week we have started another year, one that promises to be full of excitement at the professional and personal level. Last year left me with many new experiences, unfortunately some of them not that good. I learned that I need to look after myself way more since this year I went to the doctor more times that in all my previous 35 years, of course I am exaggerating but it surely felt like it.
My students Félix and Pedro passed their first year exams which gave me great pleasure, in January they have to hand in their progress report but I am sure they will have no problem in continuing their PhD, since they have done a great job. My BSc student Mariana has finished her BSc dissertation and I am awaiting news of her exam, I am sure she will do great. This year we received a new PhD student in collaboration with another colleague, one that has my full respect. She combines the responsibilities of being a mom and a PhD student, something that is quite complicated. Not surprisingly she is finding it difficult to mage both things but I trust we will find the way to work efficiently and get results as soon as possible. We are also expecting at least one PhD student this January, which makes me quite happy as my group is growing slowly but surely. I hope that within one or two years I will be graduating my first PhD students, not bad at all!!!.
Unfortunately not all things were good in this area. For the very first time I lost one PhD student. After defending her first year PhD oral exam she decided to drop the project. It took me quite a bit of time to assimilate it, trying to figure out why this happened and how I would avoid it in the future. I believe the students had the capacity to continue her PhD, however we (it was co-supervised) were not able to exploit that capacity in a proper manner. During my time at Manchester I had a PhD student who despite being very complicated he is probably the student that has taught me the most. Most of the things I tried to do are based on the experience I had with him. Many times in our effort to “produce” we lose touch with the way we interact with the student. Every student has a different personality and capacities, many times is up to us to identify those strengths and use them for the good of the student and the project. I think that this is where I need to be careful on selecting students for the projects that I have. Sometimes the student will come with so many deficiencies that will make our life difficult but I think that once is with you, you have no remedy but to give your best effort and teach the student what you know. This might mean that you will have to work with him hand to hand, while you have hardly any time left, but I guess is the price we have to pay for accepting them. Words of anger and desperation make no good to anybody. More than deter them we need to inspire them to do more, built their confidence to aspire for more. I am still young and this experience I guess is part of being a supervisor.
In the area of projects, we managed to land a second grant in collaboration with the University of Arizona. I submitted a fair amount of proposals, whose answer I expect in the first months of this year. At the moment I have two grants that give me enough space to continue building my group as well as the always needed equipment and material. I hope we continue with this trend and receive more funding this year.
This year I was also able to organize a Symposium on Nuclear Materials at an International Conference. It was a very gratifying experience which I expect to repeat this year. I hope this conference will become in the near future a reference point to discuss the forefront of nuclear materials. I also had the great pleasure of organizing two outreach activities. Despite being criticized for using institutional funds for this type of activities, I was happy to see that people was able to know what we do and why we do it. I know some of my old colleagues find it unnecessary, however I think outreach activities should be part of our responsibilities as scientists. I am not saying that we all need to go to the nearest rural area and give demonstrations or so, but there are many different ways to invest some of our time to inspire the younger generations to do science, at the end of the day all what we do is for them. I left many unfinished businesses in this area but I hope 2015 will give me the time to complete those projects, and allow me and other colleagues who think like me to share the excitement of our jobs.
This year had a very nice ending. We received the visit of our families from Mexico City, it is unfortunate that my parents and elder sister couldn´t come but I hope one day we can repeat this having them all at home. To those who take their time to read my lousy ideas, I thank you for it, I hope you all had a great 2014 and an even better 2015, HAPPY NEW YEAR.