Tell us about your academic path.
I took the classic route, a degree, a PhD (with experience abroad), some research grants; then, the first competition as a researcher, meanwhile I had two children, then a competition for associate professor. I started holding important positions in the department and in the national scientific world. Then, national qualification in several disciplinary sectors for the role of Full Professor with following public competition. I am now Full Professor of Industrial Chemistry and Delegate of the Rector for the scientific area, and, at national level, I am coordinator of the Interdisciplinary Group of Catalysis of the Italian Chemical Society.
Have you always known that this was going to be your path?
Since I was a child, I dreamed of being a scientist. I read a lot and was fascinated by the Junior Woodchucks Guidebook, a book that gave all the answers. My aptitude for scientific subjects did the rest. I must say that I have been lucky in that both in my family and at school I have always had people who have supported me along this road. At university, I was lucky enough to be able to work on a dissertation with a professor with whom I had taken a course that fascinated me a lot. It may sound strange, but it was a course in Industrial Chemistry. So I continued on that track and now I am a full Professor of Industrial Chemistry and coordinate a group of 15 people. Enthusiastic young people, extremely creative, who make me feel young.
What do teaching and researching mean to you?
Teaching and researching are as natural to me as eating and sleeping are a need. As I said before, teaching and researching give me the chance to be close to young people and breathe in their enthusiasm and desire to discover and find new answers. It is always a challenge, every day I have to try to keep up with them and it is not always easy; they are much more open and reactive to new things. By teaching I can give them something in terms of experience and they give me enthusiasm and new goals or challenges to achieve and overcome.
The issue of gender inequality in STEM disciplines in Italy is still very topical. What would you tell girls who want to approach these disciplines?
The issue of gender inequality is one that, as a woman and a scientist, I feel very strongly about. In my department there are currently only two women full professors: a percentage around 20%, which is too low and too unbalanced towards men, not least because there are now also many female research colleagues, so this inequality is unjustified. I would tell girls that we women can do everything our male counterparts do, just believe in it and don't give up. The more women who succeed in top positions, the easier the road will be for the new generation of women who follow them. My boss used to tell me that if I wanted something and I was competing with a man for it, I had to be at least twice as good as him: I think this is true, unfortunately we don't start out as equals - we always start out a few metres behind, but we are more tenacious.