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He did not imagine himself as PhD
Posted On : Feb 06, 2017


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He thought it was for others but not for him.

In this podcast Roberto talks with Dr. Jaime Fernandez-Baca, Leader of the Tripple Axis Spectroscopy Group in the Quantum Condensed Matter Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Jaime was born in Peru and studied his undergraduate degree in physics in the National School of Engineering in Lima. His passion has been nuclear physics. Sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Jaime did a one year internship at the Physics Department of the University of Maryland College Park. It was then that he realized that he needed more than one year to truly improve his skills as nuclear physicist. Persuaded by his mentor he applied to the graduate program in physics and started what is now a 30 year fruitful career.

I landed with 50 $$ and a promise

Dr. Fernandez-Baca got married before finishing his graduate studies, demonstrating that having family is not an obstacle to study an advanced degree. He landed in the USA with $50 and a “promise”. Yes, because he had been offered a job as research assistant as a means to pay for the tuition and other expenses during his graduate studies. He confesses that his father was not happy when being a young man, he told him that he wanted to study physics. His father feared that he would not be able to find a job if he studied physics. But Jaime trusted his heart and went on to do what he really loved.

The rest is history, in 2015 Dr. Fernandez-Baca was inducted as Fellow of the American Physical Society “for seminal neutron scattering studies of magnetic materials, especially the spin and lattice dynamics of colossal magneto-resistive manganites.” This is by all means, one of the highest honors for a physicist.

It took him a while to realize that he could be a PhD, why not?, he asked himself!

In this podcast also, Dr. Fernandez-Baca told us about the history of Oak Ridge National Laboratory and more importantly, that the sophisticated equipment found in this laboratory, is available free to foreign researchers. He explains that a foreign researcher can submit a proposal for an experiment or to use the super-computing facilities of the lab. The proposal is reviewed by a panel and if the scientific merit is there, the experiment is conducted at no cost. Perhaps, the biggest gem of this interview is learning about the opportunities that exist and are waiting to those that like Dr. Fernandez-Baca, are passionate about science.

Produced by Felipe Gonzalez

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