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Dr. Marc Sansa Perna - Nanomechanics, Halfway between Fundamental and Applied Science

​Dr. Marc Sansa comes from Sabadell, close to Barcelona in Spain. He arrived at CEA-Grenoble in March 2014, where he is carrying out his research project, entitled “Improvement of the limit of detection of nanomechanical mass sensors”.

Published on 9 November 2016
  • Could you briefly tell us about your academic background before coming to CEA?

At the beginning of my curriculum, I specialized in telecommunications engineering. I then entered a master's course in Micro and Nanoelectronics before writing a thesis on silicon nanowires for mass spectrometry applications at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain.

After my PhD, I wanted to continue on this subject so I applied for a postdoctoral position at CEA/LETI (Laboratory of Electronic and Information Technologies). In the framework of my PhD, I knew about a laboratory in this institute, which is a leader in nanomechanical mass spectrometry in Europe. Shortly after the beginning of my stay at CEA, I applied for an Enhanced Eurotalents fellowship, in order to extend my stay. I was granted with a 36-months fellowship, so I am halfway through it today [September 2016].

  • What is your research project about? Who are you working with?

My research project is entitled "Improvement of the limit of detection of nanomechanical mass sensors". Its primary goal is to improve the performance of nanoresonators for mass spectrometry. To be more specific, we are studying the noise that is limiting the performance of these devices. We have obtained good results so far: we managed to identify a noise source limiting the performance of a large number of nanosensors, which recently led to some good publications.

The nanomechanical mass spectrometry group counts five people in two laboratories. More generally, my colleagues are mainly French but I also work with some PhD students and postdocs from abroad. 

  • What do you enjoy the most about your field? 

I enjoy the fact that it brings together fundamental and applied science. Our goal is to develop a technology which could become a commercial technology in the future. However, the fundamental research I am carrying out on noise sources is also a big part of the project.

This variety teaches me flexibility which is very important for my career. It will allow me to carve out the path I want, even though I will probably keep on doing fundamental research. I would love to get a position which allows me to build up my own group, focusing on fundamental research but while keeping an eye out on possible applications.

  • What are the strengths of your stay at CEA? 

This experience is undoubtedly good for my career. It gave me the opportunity to work in a top-level lab with lots of experience in my field, along with great colleagues and equipment. 

Besides, I am given a considerable independence for my research. As opposed to my PhD, I benefit from more freedom and control over my project. 

  • Do you think that your status of international researcher brings value to your laboratory? To your career? 

Yes, I think so. I come from a different research mentality. I think it brings variety, as I have different skills. It's always good to have various perspectives in research. There are some differences in the way French and Spanish researchers work. In France, we always have in mind the application of our activities. We give some thoughts about the industrial applications of our work – less so in Spain where the industry in my field is virtually non-existent.

Overall, there are more opportunities in France than in Spain, which is why, on a mid-term basis, I would like to stay in France after my contract at CEA. 

  • What did you think about the training session named "Post-doc: how to manage your career?" you attended in INSTN (CEA – Saclay)?

I really liked it. As we were a small group of seven people, it was a very personalized training. We put ourselves in the shoes of candidates at job interviews, and had our CVs and cover letters reviewed in a very relevant way. It was the first time I had feedback on my CV and cover letter and I think it will be very helpful to find a position after my stay at CEA.

I enjoyed a lot being able to meet other fellows. For that matter, we are still meeting regularly.

  • How are you enjoying life in France so far? 

I enjoy it a lot. It was hard at the beginning as I didn't speak French at all. I was lucky during the accommodation-hunting process and afterwards, I took French lessons, listened to the radio, and once I knew French, everything became easier. I really enjoy living in Grenoble so I would like to stay around. 

  • Would you recommend the Enhanced Eurotalents programme? Why?

Yes I would. It gives you the chance to propose your own research and to have experience abroad. In my opinion, you cannot be a really good researcher without a good mobility background. The programme also gives the opportunity to have more independence in your research project than a regular post-doc position.