Dr. Paloma Hidalgo Manrique joined IMDEA Materials in 2012 as a postdoctoral researcher after completing her PhD in high-strength aluminium alloys at the National Centre for Metallurgical Research. At IMDEA, Dr. Hidalgo was part of what is now known as the Sustainable Metallurgy research group under the direction of Dr. Teresa Pérez Prado. After leaving the Institute in 2015, Dr. Hidalgo spent four years as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Manchester and is currently a lecturer at the Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid.
Question: First of all, Paloma, thank you for speaking with IMDEA Materials. Can you tell us a bit about how you came to the Institute in 2012?
Paloma: At that moment I had just finished my PhD and I knew I wanted to keep doing research. So, I started looking for interesting positions, not only in Spain, but all over the world. But during my search, I heard about an open position as a postdoctoral researcher at IMDEA Materials under the supervision of Dr. Teresa Pérez Prado and I didn’t think twice about applying. At the time I knew Dr. Pérez Prado personally and I was also familiar with her work. To be completely honest, she was somebody that I admired a lot so, when I heard about the position and that she would be the supervisor, I went for it without a second thought.
Question: And how was it working as part of the Sustainable Metallurgy group?
Paloma: It was a fantastic experience in every way. Both personally, but also as a researcher, because we were working on a very interesting topic related to the influence of rare earth elements on the mechanical and recrystallisation behaviour of magnesium. Magnesium is the lightest structural metal and one of the main objectives in physical metallurgy is to get stronger magnesium alloys with good formability, which is difficult. If we can achieve that, then we can use these alloys to substitute heavier metals like aluminium for structural applications, particularly in the transport industry.
Question: You left IMDEA Materials after 3 years in 2015 to join the University of Manchester. Tell us about that experience.
Paloma: It was an amazing experience as well, to be honest. I had the opportunity to work with some of the best scientists in the world in the field of physical metallurgy and composites. Not only that but to be in the same university where scientists of the level of Alan Turing and Ernest Rutherford developed their careers was an honour. Moreover, the resources that you have available as a researcher in the UK are almost unlimited. So, to be able to work with these kinds of resources, and on big projects with the likes of Cambridge University and Imperial College was incredibly enriching.
Question: You are currently working as a lecturer at Rey Juan Carlos University here in Madrid. Having spent your whole professional career as a researcher, how has that transition to academia been?
Paloma: It was difficult at first, I can’t lie. Before starting at the RJCU, I was devoted to research so at the beginning having so many lessons was hard. But, I’m very happy now because I love teaching and at the end of the day, it can be just as rewarding or even more so than research. At the same time, I’m still trying to find a balance between teaching and research. I recently started a new project funded by the Community of Madrid working on magnesium alloys once again, but this time for biomedical applications. Magnesium is a biocompatible and biodegradable metal so it’s a good candidate for temporary implants.
Question: Finally, Paloma, looking back now on your time at IMDEA Materials, what memory or memories stand out for you?
Paloma: I remember when I was there, we were quite a small group so our relationships were very close. Everyone was very friendly, very helpful and willing to teach you something. I remember my time at IMDEA Materials as a very fun period of my life.
Paloma, thank you for speaking with IMDEA Materials today.
Are you interested in joining the IMDEA Materials team as a predoctoral or postdoctoral researcher? Check our job offers here: https://jobs.materials.imdea.org/
You can read our article on Dr. Paloma Hidalgo based on this interview (in Spanish) here: https://materiales.imdea.org/alumni-en-el-punto-de-mira-la-dra-paloma-hidalgo/