Dr Monica Pozzo

A little about you personally.. I am a Physicist and currently a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Earth Sciences at UCL. I have three children. In my spare time I like going for long walks, baking, reading and watching the launch of recently scheduled space missions. My dream as a child (and probably like most children) was to become an astronaut.

What is the basis of your research? My current research interests focus on materials modelling using first-principle calculationsperformed with density functional theory (DFT). These investigations rely heavily on highperformance computing.

I have worked on material design applied to graphene, catalysis, and hydrogen storage by combining DFT calculations and experimental techniques thanks to various experimental collaborations. I have also been investigating the properties of the Earth’s core, including electrical (thermal and electrical conductivities) and ionic (diffusion, viscosity) transport properties, as well as chemical interactions of different alloy mixtures with mantle minerals at the extreme pressure and temperature conditions experienced by our planet during its geological history.

More recently I have been working on reconciling experimental and computational determinations of Earth’s core thermal conductivity, which is a critical parameter for Earth’s thermal history models.

On another front, I am also the coordinator of the TYC@UCL mentoring scheme for female researchers, which I designed and launched in early 2021. The scheme was created to complement and support the work of PhD and postdoc supervisors by helping researchers to deal with some common issues they may encounter during their research careers. The schedule is rich, including individual Teams calls to appoint individual mentors and mentoring schedules, several interactive group sessions and questionnaires followed by individual reports, a group coffee meetup offered by the TYC at the end of the mentoring scheme, regular group meetups as well as informal discussions with female academics about their personal experiences as female researchers through their various career paths.

Notable collaborations include Leeds University (Earth’s core properties, geodynamo, thermal history models)- University of Trieste; Elettra-Sincrotrone Trieste S.C.p.A; IOM-CNR; Laboratorio TASC;  (joint theoretical-experimental investigation on the properties of graphene)

What has been your career highlight/biggest achievement? Reopening the debate on the thermal budget within the Earth and the generation of the magnetic field by producing the first direct calculations of the thermal and electrical conductivities of the core, which turned out to be much higher than previous estimates. They showed that, throughout the Earth’s history, it is very difficult to generate and sustain the magnetic field using thermal convection in the core, and additional possible mechanisms for the working of the geodynamo are currently being investigated.

What do you enjoy most about your work? I enjoy finding practical solutions to problems and be able to work collaboratively. – I find very rewarding working with students and offer pastoral care. – Its flexibility allows me to manage a healthy work/life balance despite family commitment.

Who has been an inspiration to you / your research? Neil Armstrong was an inspiration to get me into science.