Understanding the microstructures of steel at a fundamental level

"I was elated to get all three of them – the ERC, the Vidi and the Fellowship"

Maria Santofimia, Assistant Professor Metals Processing, Microstructure and Properties 

Last year, Maria Santofimia won a European ERC Starters Grant as well as a Dutch innovation research incentive (vidi). On top of that, she was also awarded a TU Delft Fellowship for female scientists. This has enabled her to set up a sizeable research group for her work on steel microstructures. Winning three grants is a remarkable achievement that must have cost a lot of effort and thought. So what is the secret of her success? “The key to that for me is organizing well and timing everything in advance. For example, I was due to get married in August 2011 and then go on our honeymoon, but that interfered with the deadlines for the grants. So I made sure I had my draft proposals ready by July, way before the deadlines.” 

Maria Santofimia Navarro studied Physics in Cordoba, in the Andalusia region of southern Spain. “When I graduated in 2000, I realized that I loved to study, and that I’d like to keep doing it for the rest of my life". She first embarked on a PhD on CO2 laser, but then applied for and obtained a research grant from the Spanish National Research Council to work at the National Centre for Metallurgical Research in Madrid (CENIM): "Switching from laser to steel was a bit of a risk, but I was attracted by the thought of studying something totally different, and soon got hooked on the subject", Santofimia says. "The research was very broad. I learned a lot about the formation of microstructures in metals, the fundamental stuff.”

After defending her thesis at the Complutense University of Madrid, she applied for a position as a postdoc at the Materials innovation institute (M2i) in Delft. M2i is a research partnership between government, industry and knowledge institutes. “I got the job because the reputation of my research group was excellent, and the position was in the same field as my PhD. What must have clinched it though, was my enthusiasm when I presented my ideas for the project. Now I'm hiring people myself, I see that that is very important.” 

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