2 febbraio - 20 maggio


Oton Vazquez Doce is a physicist at the Frascati National Laboratories of the INFN, he is working at the moment on two experiments connected to the DAFNE accelerator: SIDDHARTA and AMADEUS.

This interview with Oton  Vazquez Doce took place in his lab at the Frascati National Laboratories.

I am a Spanish physicist, I am from Galicia. I studied particle physics at the University of Santiago de Compostela, I worked on my thesis on the DIRAC experiment at Santiago as well as at CERN in Geneva. After that I had an Italian scholarship, at the LNF where I have been working for the past two and a half years.

Q: How and why did you decide to study physics and which is the best memory of your life as a student?

I decided to study physics because I prefer science to arts. Notwithstanding the fact that all my relatives are physicians, I knew that I did not want to study medicine. My best memory is about when I started to study in Santiago, which is a town full of students. Another great moment was when I realized that a specialization in particle physics was the right choice for me.

Q: Which difficulties did you have to face and what was the most exciting episode of your career?

To go and study far away from home wasn’t easy. The study of physics itself wasn’t easy. The most difficult part of a career is at the beginning, when you don’t have much choice yet and you have to accept anything you get offered. The most exciting moment was when I arrived at CERN, I felt like a soccer fan who gets a chance to play with the Roma team.

Q: What are you working at presently?

At this moment I am working on two experiments that are taking place at the DAFNE accelerator here at the LNF: one is called SIDDHARTA and the other AMADEUS. We are now in the data taking phase. Both experiments are about kaons, to study the characteristics of the interactions between kaons and nucleons. We also obtain information regarding the chromo-dynamic quantistics, which is the model which describes the strong interactions.

Q: Which do you believe will be the next discovery in physics?

I presume the next discovery in physics will be the Higgs boson. I would also be pleased if they find some kind of supersymmetrical particle because that part of physics has always fascinated me, since it can give us information on dark matter.

Q: In your opinion, which is the best discovery ever and who is your favorite scientist?

I think the greatest discovery has been quantum mechanics, because it has forced physicists to think in a new way. My favorite scientist is Richard Feynman, not only because of his role in the field of quantum mechanics, but also because of his personality. Reading his books I realized he said beautiful things.

Q: How important is the collaboration in scientific research, especially among researchers from different countries?

Especially in particle physics, collaboration is fundamental. Working in this group in Italy one collaborates with researchers from all kinds of nationality. At CERN for example, there are people from all over the world. Collaboration between nations is even more important when it comes to financing projects.

Q: How can a scientist be defined and how do talent, intuition and study influence his profession?

A scientist is an explorer who wonders all the time why certain phenomena happen. If he is a good scientist, talent is important, whereas for the common researcher 99% is work, and sometimes one needs a certain amount of inspiration.

Q: What are your hobbies and passions and what book would you suggest us to read?

I love music, basketball, science fiction movies. A book I loved was “1984” by George Orwell. It’s a science fiction book, but it’s also about politics. However, a book I think everyone should read is “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint Exupéry.

Q: How do you see the future of research in this period of global economic crisis?

Considering what we read in newspapers and see on television it is hard to be optimistic about the future. In any case, I think we should not give up being optimistic and hopeful. It is important that the decision makers who decide where the money goes really know what they are doing. If they make the right choices then we should go ahead, there have always been problems everywhere.

Q. Italy is going through a period of crisis, and modern research constantly requires state financing. Do you think this is right, or should that money be spent elsewhere?

My friends often ask me what my work is good for, and it is of major importance that people in general, but especially money givers, should know what the use science is. I think that not investing in science is like a family who spend all their money on food but never worry about the future and education of their children. Investing in research now helps create a better future, and resolve problems like the energy sources for example.

Q. Have you ever had to study something you did not like?

Actually I have never had to give up a passion. When you finish university you cannot always do what you like, you have to earn it. In the beginning it is difficult, but as years go by you get more choice.

Q. In what other countries, apart from your own, did you work?

I have worked only at CERN and in Italy.

Q. Do you consider yourself a “brain refugee”?

I don’t think I am a “brain refugee”, because science is international and the results you obtain belong to the whole scientific community.

Q. Are there other places you would like to work?

Not at the moment, no. There is an experiment going on here in Frascati and one of the most beautiful things is to see the birth of an experiment.

Q. Have you noticed any differences between the people you met at CERN and those you met at the LNF?

The difference between CERN and the LNF is like that between a big city and a small town: over there you don’t know anybody, whereas here you know everybody, and that is something I like very much.

Q. Have you used your transfers to do some sight seeing as well?

When they offer you a job for two years in Rome, you are eager to accept. I must say I have been very lucky because I have worked in beautiful cities tourist wise.