For this installment of Senior Member Insights, we talk with Ion Tiginyanu. Ion is currently first vice-president of the Academy of Sciences of Moldova and founding director of the National Center for Materials Study and Testing, Technical University of Moldova (TUM). Ion has been a professor in the Microelectronics Department of TUM since 1993 and coordinated the national program on nanotechnologies in Moldova from 2006 to 2012. His current research interests include nonlithographic technologies for material nanostructuring as well as electronic, photonic and nonlinear optical properties of nanostructured semiconductor compounds and their hybrid networks with carbon aerogels. He looks forward to contributing to the development of novel nanodevices for biomedical applications.
What first interested you in pursuing science?
Curiosity motivated me to become a researcher. When I was a schoolboy, my hobbies were physics, mathematics and reading science fiction. My passion for solving physics and mathematics problems in high school led me to study physics at university and to pursue a scientific carrier.
Describe a major turning point in your career. Was there a specific action/accomplishment that got you there?
In 1995, after being awarded an Alexander von Humboldt fellowship, I joined the research group of the well-known Professor Hans Ludwig Hartnagel at the Technical University Darmstadt in Germany. In Darmstadt, I started to deal with the nanostructuring of electronic materials and, in collaboration with partners from several European countries, won my first international grant in the field of nanotechnologies. Interestingly, and without realizing it at that time, I followed the advice of Nobel laureate Albert Einstein, who once recommended this university: “In my opinion, you definitely ought to go to Darmstadt. They have a good polytechnic school there….”
What advice do you have for young scientists who are discouraged about their current work or career path?
To reach success in science one should love it. As the physical phenomena are investigated deeper and deeper, we often realize that there is even more we do not understand. Skilled scientists are characterized by patience and dedication. It is essential for young researchers to identify and work on scientific subjects that are at the forefront of research and captivating, but at the same time are really important from fundamental and/or applicative points of view. Be curious, be ambitious, be open toward new ideas and the success will come to you!
Do you have any advice for dealing with a particularly challenging colleague or supervisor?
Human beings are different and sometimes it is not easy to deal with a particularly challenging colleague or supervisor. In such situations, I try to focus my interaction with such a colleague exclusively on solving professional tasks, doing my best to reach a synergistic interaction. Intelligent and delicate dialogue usually helps.
What professional resources do you rely on to stay active and engaged with your field?
First of all, I rely on professional conferences to stay active and engaged in my field of research. Over the last decade I have also been involved in a series of networking events, in particular related to the European Framework Programs, and I found them very useful. Currently we are building a network of nano research infrastructures in the Danube region of Europe, which opens new opportunities for synergistic and collaborative interaction between partners.
What tips for effective collaboration, or successful networking, do you have for early-career professionals?
Along with participation in scientific conferences and networking events, I find it important to become a volunteer for at least one professional society. Early-career professionals should take every opportunity to establish personal contacts with other researchers since personal contacts do facilitate effective collaborations. Taking into account the international essence of science and tendencies for globalization, nowadays it is a matter of increasing importance to initiate and promote participation in multicultural research partnerships.
What have you learned by being a mentor to others, and what have you learned from mentors who helped shepherd your career?
I follow the principle “The man learns his whole life.” As a mentor to others, I have mastered the art of being patient with students and have learned how to motivate students to participate in scientific research and to make a scientific career. I usually bring examples demonstrating that successful careers can be built in the fascinating world of research with myriad of opportunities.
From my mentors, I learned that one cannot be successful in his scientific career without absolute devotion to research work.
What is one piece of advice that you wish you were given as a student/early in your career?
To be more focused and determined and to avoid the dispersion of research efforts.
What are habits each day that help you to be successful?
I rely on deep analysis of results and meditation before making the next step in research projects. At the same time, I draw up short- and long-term plans for scientific activities and how to share the work within the team in the most reasonable way. I believe that, at least in case of experimental research, teamwork brings synergy and saves time.
How important are leadership roles in career development and how do you hone your leadership skills?
In my opinion, leadership abilities such as communication, collaboration, creativity and commitment are important for career success. Leadership in research is accomplished through competition and recognition of scientific achievements. Currently, I hone my leadership skills through the coordination of activities in the frame of national and international projects.
What advice do you have for young scientists who are about to interview for their first job?
Regarding interviews for science-related jobs, young researchers should be prepared to talk about their skills and experience gained, to demonstrate that they work successfully in teams and to disclose their motivation to build a career in science.
At this point in your career, what are you most looking forward to next?
My research group succeeded in developing a series of novel nanomaterials and device structures that are promising for applications in photonics, optoelectronics and biomedicine. The main goal now is to build collaborative bridges with strong biomedical laboratories and to promote multidisciplinary research in the field of nano-biomedicine.
If you weren’t in the sciences, what would be your dream career?
I would be a poet, but I believe that working in science has been my best choice.