All the women that I´ve read about, especially the ones that I´ve personally met during my career and whom I´ve seen struggle and succeed in finding their own space in the world of research: they are the ones that inspire and motivate me in finding my own path to success.

Welcome to our first interview in the new year of 2022! This month we want to introduce you to our physicist Vittoria Sposini. Vittoria works in the field of computational physics and was just recently awarded the Marthe Vogt Award of the Forschungsverbund Berlin. Read about Vittoria’s daily business as a researcher and the joys of not only attending a conference in person put also witnessing a scientist of the same field of research being awarded the Nobel Prize.

Describe your research in one sentence.

Vittoria: My research is focused on developing mathematical models and computational methods to characterise and understand the random motion typical of particles in complex environments.

Tell us about a normal day in the life of a postdoc.

Vittoria: Honestly, a normal day in the life of a postdoc working in theoretical/computational physics probably doesn’t seem so exciting from an outsider’s point of view. Mostly, I just sit at my desk staring at the computer. Depending on the stage of my work, the “sitting and staring at the computer” can have different shapes. I could be doing bibliographic research and thus searching for papers, reading and trying to understand them. I could be solving equations—in that case, I would be staring at my notebook rather than the computer, yet I would still from time to time use either the internet or specific programmes helping me with the calculations. I could be working on my simulations and thus using a programming language to write down a code to eventually produce data. I could be doing data analysis working with specific programmes or software to calculate my quantities of interest and make plots. I could be discussing my ideas, hypotheses, methods and results with my collaborators and thus I would be in a virtual meeting room. On other days, I could be collecting my results to prepare a paper, in such case I would be using LaTeX to write down the manuscript.
This is mainly what my work entails: a lot of sitting for my body but a lot of running around for my brain.

How will society benefit from your research?

Vittoria: This is a tricky question given that my research is part of what is commonly referred to as fundamental (or pure) research, which is the kind of research aiming at improving scientific theories for a better understanding and prediction of natural or other phenomena. This means that I mostly focus on theoretical work, which often seems far away from concrete applications that society could practically benefit from. Nevertheless, modelling and characterising the motion of particles in complex environments is at the heart of understanding processes of great technological and biological relevance such as drug delivery, gene regulation and many more.

#researchgonewrong: Share a funny/surprising or unexpected anecdote with us from your academic career so far:

Vittoria: I think that the most surprising anecdote from my academic career happened in October 2021. I was at a conference in Venice, a small conference organised by my former supervisor, which aimed at bringing together scientists from statistical physics working on topics related to ‘Fluctuations in small complex systems’. It was already a very joyful environment because for many of us it was the first in-person conference after almost 2 years of online conferences due to the pandemic. On 5 October 2021, we were attending the talks at the conference venue when suddenly a murmur started among the audience…the Nobel Prize in Physics had just been announced: Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann and Giorgio Parisi had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics 2021 “for groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of complex physical systems”. In particular, Prof. Parisi from La Sapienza University in Rome was awarded the prize “for the discovery of the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atomic to planetary scales”. We were attending a conference on Fluctuations in small complex systems and the Nobel Prize had just been awarded to acknowledge the outstanding contribution of Giorgio Parisi to exactly our topic of interest. We were all stunned and so excited to see our field finally getting this recognition. The conference programme was paused to broadcast the ceremony organised by La Sapienza University to celebrate Prof. Parisi and his extraordinary achievement. It was a moment full of emotions and ‘scientific pride’.

What does REWIRE mean to you?

Vittoria: The REWIRE programme provides us fellows with constant stimuli and support to complement our technical skills with all that is needed to succeed in academia. This can be overwhelming especially because I was granted the REWIRE fellowship as a young post-doc. Since this is my very first post-doc experience, I am on the one hand pushed to face my future career options slightly a bit ahead of time. On the other hand, this also allows me to approach my professional future with much more awareness and confidence. Knowing my options and possibilities in advance will give me the chance to make a considered decision for my future career path. This is why I really believe that REWIRE is going to shape my future career.

Who is your personal heroine?

Vittoria: This has always been a very difficult question and if I had to answer it honestly, I simply don’t have one. The idea of having a heroine implies believing that there is a person that has all the right features for success. I am sure that this idea works for many but it doesn’t for me. In my opinion there are an infinite number of different paths to success and each path is very personal and representative of the individual.  However, this doesn’t mean that there is no one that inspires and motivates me, quite the opposite in fact. All the women that I´ve read about, especially the ones that I´ve personally met during my career and whom I´ve seen struggle and succeed in finding their own space in the world of research: they are the ones that inspire and motivate me in finding my own path to success.

The most important lesson learned so far that you want to share with other future (female) early post docs:

Vittoria: It may sound obvious but the most important lesson that I have learned so far (and that I still keep learning) is simply: stand up for yourself and don’t be afraid to make your own decisions. In order to keep going in the academic world one needs a lot of perseverance and resilience. We find ourselves constantly under pressure and being asked to keep up with our productivity while having to apply every 2 years for new positions and continuously making new life choices. One needs a lot of inner strength to carry on and to my experience at the heart of this strength there is the confidence of knowing that your research focus really aligns with what you love doing. So take the time to focus on yourself. Especially if you’re anything like me, you don’t have a highly individualistic personality, which makes it pretty easy to get overwhelmed by other people’s expectations of you. Just understand who is really there to support and mentor you. Take advantage as much as you can of their suggestions and insights, yet remember that eventually each and every choice is yours to make so: stand up for yourself and don’t be afraid to make your own decisions.

Quickfire Questions

Keyboard or Pen?


Vanilla or chocolate ice cream?


Early bird or night owl?

Night owl


Find more information on Vittoria's research here.