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Caterina Vozzi

Today, OPN Careers begins a new regular feature called “Senior Member Insights.” Every few weeks, we’ll talk with one of OSA’s Senior Members about the paths they’ve taken in building their careers, about career roadblocks and how to overcome them, and about the guideposts that have helped them on their own paths.
We begin this week with Caterina Vozzi, who leads the Ultrafast Molecular Imaging group at the Institute for Photonics and Nanotechnologies of the Italian National Research Council. Since 2005, Caterina has also been a contract professor of Physics at Politecnico di Milano. Her research interests focus on atomic and molecular physics, and in particular on high-order harmonic spectroscopy and attosecond science.
Has there been a particularly difficult decision in your career thus far? How did you tackle it?
A few years ago, after a few years in the academia, I was looking for a new career step and I felt ready to lead my own research group. Unfortunately, there was no option for a promotion at that time within my institution, and I was in doubt about moving into industry. I took the time to reflect on what I did like and dislike of my position and I decided to wait in my current job and to invest some time improving my managerial skills. In the end this choice paid off.
What professional resources do you rely on to stay active and engaged with your field?
I have been mostly relying on conferences and meetings. More recently, I’ve found discussion groups on social media such as LinkedIn or even Facebook to be quite useful.
What is one piece of advice that you wish you were given as a student/early in your career?
Willpower is a superpower!
What have you learned by being a mentor to others, and what have you learned from mentors who helped shepherd your career?
Mentoring has been one of the most rewarding activities I have done so far. Learning how to motivate people according to their attitude can be a tough challenge, but I am very proud of my collaborators' success. In the past, I greatly appreciated my mentors' encouragement. I learnt a lot, particularly from the people who were the most different from me, while trying to match their organizational skills, social attitude and mostly work discipline.
What habits do you rely on to help you succeed?
When I feel too stressed, I stop working and go for a walk. Doing some sport activity helps me relieve the stress and get back to difficult tasks with more focus. I am a passionate person and I rely on my enthusiasm for reaching goals.
If you weren’t in the sciences, what would be your dream career?
Rock climber!