Personal Stories

Personal Stories
Meet the stories of our people.

Meet Prof João Murta-Pina, our Action Chair!

What got you into supercondutivity? How did you become interested in this field?

After joining NOVA School of Science and Technology in the 2000s, my former boss, Prof. Leão Rodrigues, told me that our group (only four people at that time) was involved in two projects – one in the field of robotics and the other in superconductivity – and that I should select one to work on. Having come from the field of robotics and automation, and knowing nearly nothing about superconductivity, I honestly thought about selecting the first one. Yet, as was usual in those times, I had no chance to choose and I was assigned to the project of superconductivity, which I must say that I have absolutely no regret whatsoever.

In fact, this project was part of a Research Training Network supported by the European Union, called Supermachines. Here, I had the opportunity to meet people such as Xavier Granados, Xavier Obradors, ‪Philippe Vanderbemden, David Dew-Hughes, and Archie Campbell, among others, but unfortunately, due to my teaching tasks, I have to say that I have not benefited from the network as I could or should have.

Nevertheless, Supermachines allowed me to spend some time abroad, at the University of Oxford, where I got in contact with more researchers in superconductivity and all of this together was a precious learning opportunity. It also allowed me to participate in training schools which were tremendous occasions to learn more and more.

One of the goals of the network was to develop a superconducting machine, and our group was related to electrical motors, so that was my very first interest in the field besides levitation (which I think is natural in superconductivity). After that, my interests broadened to fault current limiters and other power applications.

What is your personal interest in the COST Action?

Having nearly no access to funding for superconductivity research, I soon realised the power of networking, particularly with the group of Alfredo Álvarez. Although our groups are in Portugal and Spain, we are only two hours away by car, and by sharing our limited budgets and manpower we were able to build a very fruitful collaboration.

I was also able to join a previous COST Action on energy storage, which allowed us to send a Ph.D. student abroad for a three-month mission, to the group of Fedor Gomory and Enric Pardo. Here we started working on AC losses, something new to us then.

So, networking really is a powerful tool for advancing knowledge, as we all know, particularly when you belong to the so-called Inclusiveness Target Countries. I truly feel self-fulfillment in being able to contribute to providing the means for such networking.

What is your biggest achievement? 

That is a very difficult question, as I don’t consider myself to have made a great achievement, but rather several intermediary accomplishments: attracting several MSc and PhD students to a field that is hardly relevant for their professional careers outside academia; contributing to establishing one of the two Portuguese groups in applied superconductivity; winning a national project to develop a research portfolio in artificial intelligence in the context of AC losses; being selected to organise EUCAS 2025; and, obviously, having coordinated the successful application for Hi-SCALE.

Curiosity bonus: how do you spend most of your time when you are not in the lab/office?

Unfortunately, my university responsibilities currently leave me very little time off, which I use mostly for family and friends. Having been a member of a typical Portuguese academic band (called Tunas, which in Portuguese is not a fish!), music is a long-time passion that is always present.

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Meet Dr. Wenjuan Song, one of our members who was recently appointed Lecturer at the University of Glasgow!

 What got you into superconductivity? How did you become interested in this field?

Superconductivity first entered my sight when I was a Master’s student when I heard senior students in the lab talking about how superconductors can revolutionize the power system and its apparatuses, by reducing their losses and weight significantly. This was very exciting for me to hear as a student in the electrical enginnering.

What took me one step further into superconductivity was that I had a chance to assist a senior student carrying out cryogenic testing of a superconducting coil using liquid nitrogen. This was amazing, inspirational, and an unbelievably awesome experience where I could closely see and touch the superconductors, learn how to operate them in a cryogenic environment, and learn about their unique advantages in electrical engineering.

Meanwhile, I searched for some academic papers about superconductivity, read online resources, and also had more chats with senior students and my Master’s supervisor to have a bit more understanding of this theme.

It was a process that planted the seed of superconductivity into my mind and finally encouraged me to pursue my PhD in this field. Fortunately, it proved to be a wise and right decision for me to research applied superconductivity. I am thankful for and passionate about this career journey and I look forward to advancing superconductivity into more new opportunities, in the broad transportation sector.  

What is your personal interest in the COST Action?

I am interested in and have engaged with several sub-sections of the COST Action, all related to “modelling techniques for superconductors,” including:

  • Data-driven modelling for superconductors
  • Equivalent circuit model
  • T-A formulation

I have contributed to the following research work:

  • Second co-author of the topical review article on the T-A formulation (published recently)
  • Co-author of an invited topical review paper on artificial intelligence for superconductivity, under “data-driven modelling for superconductors” led by Dr Mohammad Yazdani-Asrami
  • Co-author of a research paper on an equivalent circuit model

In addition, I am very interested in engaging with any other volunteer work to help organize, disseminate, and manage activities, aside from academic contributions.

What is the topic of your research and what are your future plans?

My research interests cover different areas, including superconductivity in aviation, power & energy, and health care sectors.

In detail, my current and future research topics are protection solutions, transmission lines and connecting units for electrically powered aircraft system; high efficiency and low loss superconducting applications; and artificial intelligence for superconducting components in modern cryo-electric aircraft.

Curiosity bonus: how do you spend most of your time when you are not in the lab/office?

I joined the University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK, as a lecturer/assistant professor in electrically-powered aircraft early this year, so I am quite busy with many new tasks/challenges in order to fit in this new role.

However, once I get some free time, when I am not in lab/office, I enjoy walking in parks and gardens and along riverside walking tracks, since they are really beautiful and I feel relaxed while walking. I often like to travel during public holidays to explore the amazing and fantastic landscapes of Scotland. They never disappoint me.

My other hobbies are reading books and watching movies.

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Meet Dr. Harold Ruiz

 What got you into superconductivity? How did you become interested in this field?

The first time I heard about superconductivity was when I was 18 years old in a third-year module of Solid-State Physics in the University I got my BSc back in Colombia. Since that time, I certainly found the topic interesting as it held and still holds the record of Nobel Prizes awarded within the same subject. In fact, I started on quite theoretical matters of superconductivity at quite a young age, particularly on strongly electron correlated systems. My first real approach being during the writing of my BSc monograph which focused on reproducing all the maths and second quantization mechanics that was behind the published Nobel laurate lectures of Bardeen, Cooper and Schrieffer in 1972. This was a remarkable challenge as I did not have a formal training in Quantum Mechanics, or at least not at the level that was required, but fortunately I always preferred to learn from books than from formal lectures. This was maybe what make me to define a career not only in superconductivity, but also with clear tendencies to theoretical matters, which might be not that surprising. And I say this because, in the 2000s a country like Colombia did not have at all a solid research infrastructure that could have allowed me to do some attempt to research on the costly experimental aspects of superconductivity. Things might be different now, but when you come from a developing country like mine, and the only way to continue with further studies is to get the money to pay for the 1st semester of your career, and then to work out yourself to get a scholarship, the theory of superconductivity was my ticket to go forward. In that way, I then got later on a first MSc in condensed matter physics at the National University of Colombia, where I managed around 2008 to publish what I would say were my first attempts to do sound research. From there I got a series of scholarships in different countries for continuing with my PhD, from where I decided to accept and stay at the University of Zaragoza in Spain, a decision I consider was the best. There I continued with my research on microscopic aspects of superconductivity, publishing in 2009 my first Phys. Rev. B paper on this topic. That is an important year for me because it is also when I decided to move from the purely theoretical and microscopic aspects of how a couple of electrons bind together to form superconductivity, to how we use superconductors in a more practical manner, e.g., in power cables and electrical machines. This is a completely different world if it is seen from the theoretical, computational, and maths required. In fact, it is different because in what we call applied superconductivity, we simply work at different length scales. When we talk about superconducting cables, pinning mechanisms and so on, and I mean with this, from “materials to devices,” we do not necessarily need to call for a quantum statistic to understand a phenomenon. We just simply call for classical physics such as Maxwell’s equations for their electrodynamics or Newton’s laws for their thermodynamics, with of course certain constraints to resemble the strong nonlinearities that the different superconducting phenomena can exhibit. However, despite the macroscopic theory has a fairly simple background and can be learnt in very few days – opposite to the microscopic theory which involves a reasonably advanced level of quantum mechanics but relatively smooth computational algorithms – it is the strong nonlinearities in the material properties of superconductors what make then so difficult to tackle from a computing point of view. This is what has kept me interested in this, commonly looking for intriguing experimental results from my colleagues around the world, where not only a computational but also a sound physical explanation is needed for understanding and further optimizing different superconducting applications.

  

What is your personal interest in the COST Action?

Networking. Not only does the COST Action increase the visibility of your own research to a wider community, but gives an easily accessible route to expand and contribute in other areas of research where your skills fit. This is certainly important for the early career researchers that are behind us, such as postdocs and PhD students, where it is part of our duty to open these paths of communication and collaboration to them. So, probably my main interest is to help the ECRs in my group and other groups, as I consider that is the most rewarding element of a COST Action.


What is the topic of your research and what are your future plans?

Well, that is relatively varied and to be honest, from time to time it depends mostly on the availability of research funding. So, a fair answer to this question would be on any topic of superconductivity, mainly on superconducting applications, where my theoretical insight could be a plus. It could be on aspects related to the performance of either the large set of alternatives for wires and cables that we have
nowadays, or on their actual electromagnetic, thermal, or even mechanical response for helping in the designing and optimization of large-scale applications and other experimental setups.

Curiosity bonus: how do you spend most of your time when you are not in the lab/office?

At home, definitely at home with my wife and little daughter, going to the park, travelling, or doing whatever I can to enjoy parenthood.


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Meet Prof Dr. Laura Gozzelino

 What got you into superconductivity? How did you become interested in this field?
I got in touch with Superconductivity when I was searching a topic for my master’s thesis. I was interested in a topic concerning semiconducting materials because I had already taken a course on that subject, but one of my professors suggested me to join a group working on superconductivity and so I did. I had almost no knowledge of this subject, but I was immediately fascinated.  Actually, my thesis work was on the study of the effects of proton irradiation on the electromagnetic properties of YBCO samples. This gave me the opportunity to work with equipment cooled using cryogenic liquids, reaching temperatures that, until then, I had only read about in books. In addition, the implementation of the irradiation experiments gave me access to Italian large-scale irradiation facilities, making topics like particles or accelerators come true. Therefore, I immediately seized the chance to continue this activity during my PhD. 

  

What is your personal interest in the COST Action?

I am engaged in both WG1 and WG2 activities. In particular, I am mainly interested in increasing the knowledge of the electromagnetic properties of HTS materials and
in their improvement through artificial pinning center additions. The development
and the use of numerical
tools for the analysis, design and optimization of HTS
devices such as shields or magnets is also among my main interests. 
Moreover, considering that the development of truly competitive superconducting devices is very expensive, I am absolutely convinced that the winning approach is collaboration among different groups willing to share skills and experimental and computational facilities. This COST Action
is providing me the opportunity to establish new collaborations and get in
touch with new research groups.


What is the topic of your research and what are your future plans?

My research activity is mainly focused on the study of the electromagnetic properties of cuprate superconductors, MgBand iron-based superconductors, aimed at both fundamental and application-oriented aspects. In more detail, for the last few years, I have mainly worked on developing bulk magnetic shields and permanent magnets and I have investigated the modulation of the electromagnetic properties of iron-based superconductors via the controlled addition of defects induced by particle irradiation. The study of the radiation damage in superconducting materials and in other materials of technological interest for their use in radioactive environments (such as future nuclear fusion plants) is another topic of my research activity. In the near future, I am going to continue the above mentioned research activity exploring new layouts (for shields and permanent magnets) and new iron-based superconductors, also improving the performance of the instrumentation in my group’s labs.


Curiosity bonus: how do you spend most of your time when you are not in the lab/office?

Unfortunately, I do not have much free time
because quite often I take my work home. Anyway, when I can, I like to spend my
free time reading. I also really like to visit new places: every year, during
the summer holidays I spend some days to visit a corner of Italy or of Europe.


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Meet Quentin Nouailhetas

 What got you into superconductivity? How did you become interested in this field?

I first met superconductivity
during my master’s degree – I was studying large scale facilities such as
particle accelerators or TOKAMAKs where superconductivity plays a central role.
Then, along with practical and lectures, I realized how interesting the field
of superconductivity is, particularly the experimentation side. So, I decided
to continue in this field through an internship in the characterization of
superconducting tapes for high-field applications.This finally led me to a PhD
thesis at Université de Lorraine on the development of superconducting bulk for
electrical engineering applications. I had incredible opportunities to work on
various materials (YBaCuO, iron-based, MgB2, …) as well as multiple
applications such as superconducting cables, motors and characterization
platforms.

  

What is your personal interest in the COST Action?

As a young researcher, I
need to develop my social network which is possible through COST Action. 
Also, this project
allows better mobility by providing funding for visiting laboratories or for
meetings, schools, and conferences. 
Finally, as there is a
large number of various working group subjects, I can learn a lot and why not,
maybe start working on a new project
.


What is the topic of your research and what are your future plans?
I am currently finishing
my PhD on the synthesis, characterization, and
comparison of new
superconducting bulks.

I work on the synthesis
of iron-selenide superconductors using either classic furnace sintering or spark
plasma sintering. Then I measure the superconducting and/or material properties
of the prepared sample and compare each other. This routine allows me to
optimize the synthesis parameters but also to evaluate the readiness of the
material I’m working on regarding the possible applications.

I also work on the
characterization of various YBaCuO bulks such as some prepared by infiltration growth
with the help of high field (>30T) or by doing the trapped field mapping of
centimeter-sized bulks.



Curiosity bonus: how do you spend most of your time when you are not in the lab/office?

When I’m not in the lab, I enjoy playing video games with my friends as we are scattered all over the world. But I also enjoy doing sports and driving my motorbike through the French countryside. Finally, we have a great atmosphere in the lab so we frequently go to the city center and enjoy a couple of beers together.

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