Battista Matasci

Battista Mattasci

"The doctorate has given me the opportunity to continue with scientific studies, which are useful to me on a daily basis in my current work. The fact that I did applied research during the PhD automatically prepared me for the job market."

 

Matasci.jpegBattista Matasci obtained his PhD in Earth Sciences at the Institute of Earth Sciences (ISTE) of the Faculty of Geosciences and Environment of UNIL in 2015. He is currently a geologist with a geological and environmental engineering firm in Aproz, Valais.

Thesis title: Rockfall susceptibility assessment and remote geological mapping with LiDAR point clouds.

 

GC: Can you introduce yourself in a few words?
BM: I am from Ticino. I studied geology at the University of Lausanne. I am married, I have two children and I live in Valais where I work as a geologist with a private firm. For the last two years, I have also been working occasionally in Ticino with a forestry firm.

Why did you choose to do a PhD?
The opportunity presented itself at the end of my Master's degree. My future thesis supervisor had just received funding from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) for a project that I was interested in. He offered me a role in the project, which I accepted. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time.

Why did you choose to do a doctorate?
The opportunity presented itself at the end of my Master's degree. My future thesis supervisor had just received funding from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) for a project that I was interested in. He offered me a role in the project, which I accepted. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time.

You are a geologist with BEG Geology and Environment. What are your main tasks and how would you describe your role?
It’s a job in a private firm that is mandated for projects. These are sometimes private projects in collaboration with other engineers, for example for construction-related projects. There are also projects with communes or cantons for studies connected to the environment and natural hazards. Part of the work is carried out in the field (e.g. taking measures to gather data) and another part consists especially in producing reports (e.g. on natural hazards) and drawing up recommendations. It's very varied.

What do you like most about this role?
What I like most about the profession is the fieldwork. That's what's most interesting. It's really when you have a good appreciation of the situation in the field that you solve most problems in geology. Besides, I like working outdoors.

What are the essential skills to perform this mission?
You need to be able to correctly observe the situation on the ground and recognize the most important elements, then be able to summarize them effectively. I think that's the most important thing.

Tell us about the path that led you to your current position
I did a Master's degree in regional alpine geology. It was more pure geology, such as the study of certain rock types and cartography. I then went on to do my PhD. It was an applied research project in the field of natural hazards. The transition from master to doctorate was quite ideal because I had knowledge acquired during my studies that I could use as basic tools (e.g. mapping and rock recognition). During the PhD, I was able to acquire further, more specific knowledge in the field of natural hazards. I also had the opportunity to participate in teaching, which taught me many things, such as interacting with students and passing on knowledge. I was able to add all this to my toolkit. And the fact that I did applied research in the field of natural hazards during my Ph.D. was very helpful in starting my career in a private firm. Because in my current role, we work every day on natural hazard projects.

During your PhD, did you prepare for your entry into the job market?
I think if I hadn't had the opportunity to do a PhD, I would have immediately sought to join a private firm. The doctorate has given me the opportunity to continue with scientific studies, which are useful to me on a daily basis in my current work. The fact that I did applied research during the PhD automatically prepared me for the job market. My thesis supervisor, Professor Jaboyedoff, had specific projects or studies in connection with private firms, and contacts with communes and cantons - in particular the cantons of Vaud and Valais. We can say that the links, projects and partnerships between the research institute - the Institute of Earth Sciences - and the cantons and certain communes made it possible for me to enter this field.

How do you respond to those who feel that the doctorate is not relevant to a career beyond academia?
Maybe sometimes it is, but not always. On the contrary, beyond whether the doctorate is pure, hard, very theoretical research, or more applied research, doing a doctorate is still doing a project. It is perhaps the first time that you find yourself on your own in having to move projects forward, in having to find solutions, in perhaps even having to invent new techniques to advance your field. Of course, there’s always a professor supervising a thesis, but doctoral candidates are asked to be more independent than a Master’s student. This independence needs a strong sense of responsibility. If you manage to find your way through the thesis, I think you learn and take on a lot of responsibility. I would say that these are rather human skills that are very important in whatever you go on to do, especially if you want to take on more responsibility. It's a toolkit that opens a lot of doors. I can only advise you to do a doctorate: if the opportunity arises, you have to seize it.

What advice would you give to a doctoral or postdoc researcher preparing for the next stage of their career?
I think you really have to ask yourself the right questions about what you want to do, what you like most about the different fields you could work in. The most important thing, I think, especially when you're young, is to try to move towards something that motivates you, that stimulates you, and to go where you feel you can bring something and where you can grow. Because at that stage, there’s still a long way to go in your career, and it's important to enjoy the work you do.

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