Scholars return home | Valencian Community

When they finished their university life, they were clear that they wanted to devote themselves to science, but owning a research portfolio in Spain would require traveling abroad to learn, gain experience and create synergies with foreign teams, and then try to come back and bring all that experience with them. “At least that’s what they sold me,” says one of them. One hundred researchers have returned to the Valencian community thanks to the GenT programme, created by the Valencian government in 2018 to recover, attract and integrate talent into the Valencia R&D&i system.

The program started with a budget of seven million euros which increased to 12 per year. The scholarship is for four years, with the possibility of extending it for another two years, and is aimed at researchers with international experience and a proven track record of excellence in the case of the most qualified. “Some who are 10 years away from Spain, with their professional and personal quality, have opened the door in many other places; if we want them to come, we have to bet on them strongly,” explains Angel Carbonell, Director General of Science and Research at the Ministry of Education. Innovation, universities, science and the digital society.

Astronomer Ivan Marti, from Persian, is from the first batch of gene T. She is involved in the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project that was able to photograph a black hole for the first time. This 41-year-old radio astronomer is dedicated to observing supermassive black holes and supernova explosions. The collaboration with EHT is what he is most involved in but also dedicated to Geodesy.

Marty spent two and a half years in Germany, with a postdoctoral fellowship, and more than seven years at the Onsala Astronomical Observatory in Sweden. He left out of professional necessity and spent years trying to come back. “Once you have a family, only professional factors are not taken into account. The Scandinavian country ‘cinema’ was because a lot of investment in science and bureaucracy is more flexible for research.” But he has a son with special needs and being away from the family has been a huge burden for him and his partner. It was the main reason to return. However, the crisis came, investment in research fell and hope of returning to Spain was dashed. “I’ve been trying for several years, and tried so many methods, that I seriously thought about quitting the investigation, signing up for unemployment, and working on whatever came out,” he explains.

It was marked until the end of 2018, and only then the opposition of state astronomers appeared, he approved it and on the first day of work at the Yebes Observatory, he received an email from the Generalitat with his acceptance into the GenT plan. “It is a program to attract talent but settling into a research position is uncertain, so it was difficult for me to make a decision. But as she says James Bond, in risk is pleasure. And decided to take a risk. Some acquaintances told me I was crazy but I gave up my place and I am now in Valencia,” he recalls.

The experience is very positive and the program is ‘indispensable’ and although there is potential, there is no guarantee of stability at the end of the road. “It does not happen as in other countries where if you have fulfilled a series of requirements [un número mínimo de publicaciones o llevar a buen término un proyecto de investigación] They automatically give you a permanent contract. Here it is still not possible,” says Marty.

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Silvia de Santis, a GenT researcher, in the laboratory of the Institute of Neurosciences in Alicante.

Born in Rome, Silvia De Santis entered 2021 GenT and only recently joined. She received her Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Rome and MRI is her specialty. He did his postgraduate studies in Cardiff and was awarded a scholarship to learn about other laboratories, so he moved to the Institute of Neurosciences in Alicante. The latest GenT calls opened the possibility not only to researchers who come from abroad but also to those who were already in the Valencia plan in a way with fewer years of experience, so the researcher took advantage of that to continue her work.

This researcher is looking for a way to detect the degree of encephalitis through a non-invasive methodology such as resonance. He works at the Instituto Alicante, a joint center between CSIC and Miguel Hernández University in Elche “GenT financial assistance seems to me that the program is a good option, although there is always room for improvement. For example, the Generalitat periodically asks us reactions And my experience is that they took us seriously and tried to improve communication year after year.” The researcher praises the progressive co-funding that the program requires: “I think the Generalitat program works very well to say that these are the scholarships that are offered so that the center you work in later finds a way to stabilize the researcher,” she concludes.

José Jaime Baldovi researches with the GenT plan at ICMOL at the University of Valencia.
José Jaime Baldovi researches with the GenT plan at ICMOL at the University of Valencia.

José Jaime Baldovi, from Xàtiva, 35, is a chemist by training and is now conducting research at the Institute of Molecular Sciences (ICMOL) at the University of Valencia thanks to GenT. He did his doctoral thesis there and when he finished he agreed to research for the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg. It was a drastic change: “I came from chemistry and molecular magnetism and started working with physicists, it was like starting over and that’s the key in science. Getting out of your comfort zone, going outside opens you up to a lot of perspective,” he asserts.

This scholar’s stay abroad was short, two years, at which point the Gen-T program appeared and he was very attracted to the conditions of the plan. “It was decades on the same terms I had in Germany that allowed me to go back to Valencia, reclaim my roots and do research at ICMOL, a first-class institute.”

Baldoví studies the design of new materials at a very small scale with interesting magnetic properties for different applications. It is fundamental science in the short term and in the long term it is about opening a new way to replace electronics. “My project is a strategic line, which was not in the institute, and it comes from what I learned from Germany along with my knowledge I had,” he adds.

The chemist admits that there are not many people in Spain who can devote themselves exclusively to research and notes that the GenT has set up the Accent Association, where there are profiles developing their own Role. They have been contacted by the Valencian Association of Entrepreneurs and are interested in meeting them. “I see the Gen-T plan as an opportunity for the Valencian community because it covers all areas of knowledge and there are people with a vision of action,” he says.

For Baldoví, it is very important that the figure of the world be visible, that it be an attractive profession. “Science is a world in which one is guided by curiosity and tries to find the best answers, and those answers do not always have to be close to home,” he reflects.

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