HORIBA applications scientist Sofia Gaiaschi grew up in a small village in the east suburbs of Milan, Italy. The kind of village where everyone knows everyone else.
Her family owns a plot of land in the Tuscan countryside. They grow 300 olive trees there. She is also a certified farmer.
Gaiaschi was 10-years-old when her uncle took her to an astronomy conference. The conference featured recent findings and images from the Hubble Space Telescope.
That conference steered a young Gaiaschi to study astronomy. But there were bumps in the road.
“Like any teenager, during my high-school years, I changed my mind and I decided I wanted to study Japanese, and graduate in Asian studies,” she said. “My mum wasn’t very happy about it, as she was convinced that such education couldn’t help me land a steady job. So, I turned to my second interest - how things work.”
Two of Gaiaschi’s father’s cousins were physicists. Speaking with them made her realize that a degree in physics would be an interesting challenge.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in astrophysics from the University of Milano Bicocca. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree, she switched to solid state physics for her master’s degree.
In 2010, she moved to Marseille, France, completing the final internship to validate her master’s degree. She went back to Italy to defend her thesis, and received a master’s degree in solid state physics from Milano Bicocca. Gaiaschi moved to Paris in 2011, where she earned her Ph.D. in in physics from the University of Paris-Sud.
“The astrophysics lifestyle didn’t suit me very much,” she said. “I considered it too abstract. I preferred understanding how practical things work, instead of how the universe works. Therefore, for my bachelor’s degree internship, I decided to focus on instrumentation, and I worked on rebuilding a spark chamber to study cosmic rays.”
While she loved the physics route, she said it wasn’t any more practical than astrophysics.
“Our main job was to perform calculations,” she said. “Luckily, I found my bliss during my Ph.D. work, which focused on the fabrication, characterization and modelling of new alloys for solar cells applications, which allowed me to become familiar with a wide number of characterization techniques.”
As an applications scientist at HORIBA, Gaiaschi works on Glow Discharge Optical Emission Spectrometry. Her goal is to perform analysis to show the performance of HORIBA’s instruments. She assists clients needing to implement specific application-oriented methods. Gaiaschi is also responsible for customer training, both at the customer’s site and in HORIBA’s application lab in Palaiseau.
“In our lab, we also work on developing new strategies aimed at bringing solutions for specific application fields,” she said. “For this reason, one of my goals is to build collaborations with our customers and benefit from their knowledge in specific application domains, while bringing our expertise in analytical science.”
Gaiaschi has a 6-year-old niece who likes princesses, yet wants to become a scientist.
“I take pride in thinking that her choice has been influenced by all the books that I offered her,” Gaiaschi said. “I will always tell her that she can have both. The fairytale world and the STEM one.”
As for young girls pursuing a career in science, Gaiaschi recommends they stay the course.
“I would suggest to them to keep studying and not to give up,” she said. “There might be people saying that science is not for girls, but they are wrong.”
Do you have any questions or requests? Use this form to contact our specialists.