Campus and Community

Técnico student receives “La Caixa” PhD Fellowship

João Barata received a fellowship under the INPhINIT PhD Fellowship programme, co-funded by the European Commission.

João Barata, Técnico alumnus, develops his research aiming to understand how did matter form in the early universe. He is currently conducting research at the Galician Institute of High Energy Physics (IGFAE), in Santiago de Compostela. The fellowship he has just received (amounting to €120,000) will allow him to continue pursuing his dream with an increased stability.

“La Caixa” Foundation awarded 57 fellowships under the INPhINIT PhD Fellowship programme, co-funded by the European Commission, which can be extended by a maximum of 3 years. These fellowships aim to attract talented early-stage researchers who wish to pursue doctoral studies in Spain. “My current supervisor told me that this fellowship could be an excellent opportunity for me” recalls João Barata.

“La Caixa” fellowships are usually regarded as of great prestige, both for the fellowship recipient and the institution that hosts the fellow. “These are very competitive fellowships, which offer financial and non-financial conditions, and go beyond the most common PhD fellowships,” explains João Barata, who also stresses “I feel very proud to be part of the 57 students chosen. This is a recognition that my project and my work have academic merit”.

João Barata entered Técnico in 2014 and attended the Master’s Degree in Engineering Physics (MEFT) for three years. “I became very interested in the area I am currently working during the second year, namely after doing an internship at CMS – CERN”, recalls the alumnus. After studying at Técnico, the young researcher carried out a summer project at Oxford University within his area of study, and then completed his master’s degree in theoretical physics at Imperial College London.

“Today we know that this state of matter behaves like a liquid, in fact, it is commonly said that it is the primordial soup from which all matter has emerged. To access the conditions of the universe at that time, we use particle accelerators to collide particles at extreme energies”, explains the Técnico alumnus. “In my research, we study the behaviour of very energetic particles (probes) that propagate in this liquid,” he says. “This is a fascinating subject not only because it tells us something about the universe in the moments after the Big Bang but also because it will allow us to approach physics in a completely different way”.

“IGFAE is a reference worldwide. The atmosphere is very positive. I spend my time with researchers and other students who share my interests”, says João Barata. “My PhD has been a very enriching experience so far. I feel that my technological knowledge in this area has improved a lot. This fellowship gave me the opportunity to participate in various workshops, which allowed me to meet the IGFAE community and to learn more about their work”, he stresses.

“I am also working with a research group from LIP. We are trying to measure the mass of certain objects and then verify if it changes according to the expected, in a vacuum environment”, says João Barata. Next year, the young researcher will conduct his research at Brookhaven National Laboratory, in Long Island (EUA), during 9 months with the support of Fulbright Programme. “Working in this laboratory it’s a great opportunity. It has one of the world’s most important Nuclear and Particle Physics research groups and it is closely related to major experimental projects in this area”, he highlights.