Interview with Dr Marco Masia (February 2013)

Categories: Meet the researchers

Tags: Interview

Marco Masia, Italian by origin, obtained a so called International Outgoing Fellowship which will allow him to gain experience in his field in the US for two years and take back the knowledge gained and expand it in Europe for another one year also covered by the fellowship. This is a wonderful example of the “brain circulation” and sharing knowledge between the two continents. And as Marco said: “The Marie Curie Fellowships are a great opportunity for work and life experience.”


Marie Curie Fellowships (MCF) are European research grants available to researchers regardless of their nationality and field of research. In addition to generous fellowships, researchers have the possibility to gain experience abroad and in the private sector, and to complete their training with competences or disciplines useful for their careers.


“My name is Marco Masia and I am a Marie Curie Fellow at Boston University. Marie Curie actions, part of the European framework program, aim at boosting the career development of young researchers through a bottom-up approach; it is a long-time investment on knowledge, that would eventually enrich the European Research Area and its economic growth.


In my case, the fellowship covers salary and research costs for three years, two years in the US and one back in Europe. The scheme IOF (International Outgoing Fellowship) provides a unique opportunity for those researchers willing to acquire new knowledge and skills; in fact, not only does it give the chance to work with world leading groups in any field of research, but it also allows us to connect with the non-European scientific community.


My research field is Theoretical Chemistry: using theoretical and computational methods I am interested in understanding the minute atomistic details of chemical systems. In particular, for my Marie Curie project, I am studying energy transfer in natural light harvesting complexes that are known to be highly efficient in energy conversion. The aim of my research is to look into the main features of the energy conversion for targeted design of the next generation polymer solar cells.


This experience is challenging both for the research and personal aspects. For example, moving to the US meant a big change for my family. My wife had to quit her job and move to the US with our two children. It took a couple of months before my children accepted the changes to our lifestyle, the language, friends, etc. I would say that, after having spent almost eight months in the US, we are finally settled in and most of our problems with moving the whole family have been solved. We are enjoying Brookline, a small city in the Boston greater area that is ideal for young parents and their children.


One thing I like about this experience is that I get to learn about the local culture. In particular I enjoy the Euro-American hybrid culture of Boston. I also appreciate how US people have an optimistic approach to life. This is reflected in their common language. Things that are “nice” or “ok” in Europe, are “awesome”, “great” or “terrific” here. I think that this attitude to life is the key to facing difficult challenges in economy, scientific research and technology. This is why they are much more daring in these fields compared to Europeans. Another thing I like about here is the quasi-absence of bureaucracy. Although they always complain about it, it is evident that their administrative apparatus is 1500 years behind European's. They don't realize how lucky they are!


Of course not everything in the US is better than in Europe; for example, they lag behind us in all aspects related to social welfare. They have highs and lows in education, health, and culture. In fact President Obama recently pointed out, in his State of the Union address that these issues are becoming a burden for the State as they enhance differences in wealth and reach between social classes. This is not acceptable for a civil, rich country. Luckily New England is an exception in this and resembles Europe. I think I will really enjoy living and working here for the next year.”


Marco showed that the MCF is very important not only for the personal career and development of the researcher but he will also add value to the European research landscape because - through creating his network - he will forge strong links with the US research community and after returning to Europe act as a bridge between the European and US research communities.