CERAD Faces: Simone Cagno

Tell us about yourself

I am Italian and I have spent the last 10 years in Belgium and Norway. I arrived in Antwerp in 2007 for a 1 year Marie Curie fellowship in analytical chemistry in the group of Koen Janssens. That was followed by a PhD in Chemistry in the same group, and in 2012-2014 by a postdoc at NMBU (then UMB), in the group of Brit Salbu.

I am currently a researcher in radiochemistry at the Belgian Nuclear Research Center SCK-CEN, and, until this month, also a 10% researcher at NMBU. In May, I will move to the European Commission Joint Research Center in Ispra, Italy, to perform research in the field of nuclear safeguards.

How are you connected to CERAD?

As a follow up of the activities started during my postdoc, I am performing micro and nano analytical characterization of radioactive particles together with Ole Christian Lind, and of exposed biota with Dag Anders Brede and O.C Lind once again. These are very exciting experiments, where we happen to see details with a resolution no other human has ever seen.  Another exciting part of this project is its international dimension: we perform measurements at state of the art synchrotrons in Grenoble or Hamburg, together with scientists from several European institutions.

You get a year to research abroad. Where would you go and why?

After many years abroad I would like to bring back my experience into the Italian academia, where I had so far almost no chance to work in. I would love, for instance, to help outstanding Italian teams to increase their beamtime share at large scale facilities.

What do you prefer: to teach or to perform research?

Earlier in my career I used to prefer performing research and used to think this was the only kind of “noble” scientific work, but lately I started to appreciate teaching, and especially teaching about my own work, even though I have not so many chances at present.

Invite three science heroes for dinner – who would you chose? 

I would invite Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg and Enrico Fermi. I would like to hear from the very pioneers their opinion on nuclear energy as we see it today, on nuclear proliferation and the means we have in place nowadays to prevent it, and the nuclear back end, which was largely overlooked at their time. That might probably lead to a long and passionate discussion on what they contributed to generate! 

Which technical term do you love?

I love all terms that deal with the quality of measurements: accuracy, precision, calibration, limit of detection, standards and many others. I love them because they give us the means to define and certify how well we perform our analyses.

Which technical term do you hate?

No technical term specifically, but I particularly dislike terms used to “sell” science in projects, for instance, such as “challenging”, or “groundbreaking”: vague and with better synonyms in many cases.

How do you think the system of publication points for scientific publishing should be done?

I think that, in a perfect world, every single publication should be read entirely, understood and evaluated for what it is, independently from its editorial location. Any other system is basically meant to save time and manpower spent in evaluation, that is not bad either. One would need a magic wand to find the perfect compromise!

Which paradigm shifting or scientific discovery you wish you were a part of? 

For many reasons, but mainly because it is the cause of a lot of what nuclear scientists nowadays do, I would have liked to be part of the Manhattan project. If we leave aside any ethical consideration, I think the mix of secrecy, urgency, experimental and theoretical work and impact on the world fate will never be repeated.

Published 2. May 2017 - 10:37 - Updated 23. May 2017 - 19:08

Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU)

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