International Talks

International Talks: Francesco Di Stasio

Francesco Di Stasio

 A long scientific journey ahead…

When I graduated in Materials science in 2008, I was at the beginning of a new journey and I felt overwhelmed by all the possibilities. What to do next was the main question. I ended filing job applications one after another and I started racking up interviews in various companies in Italy, until I got an offer to pursue a Ph.D. in Physics in the UK. At that time, I could not resist the temptation of such an adventure and this feeling pushed me to disregard more secure job offers close to home. In the following years I have regretted this initial decision quite often as growing older I started desiring a more stable and settled life while instead I put myself on a path of constant changes. Yet, a couple of years after the Ph.D., I ended up taking again the same decision: abandoning a safe job in industry in the UK and relocate to Italy for a postdoc at IIT, and thus a new adventure. I remember that at that time I was particularly scared of moving back to Italy since I loved living in London and I was quite happy with the life I built there. Moving back to my hometown (Genoa) was not an easy task, it is always important to remember that people write books of their journeys, not of their return at home (I heard this somewhere, so I do not take credit for this piece of wisdom, it would need a citation). On the other hand, working at IIT filled that gap between Genoa and London: I was working in a very international and dynamic place, I was meeting new and interesting people and I was once again carry out research and learning new things every day. After the initial bumpy start, I was very happy of my homecoming. I ended up leaving IIT in 2016 to relocate to ICFO in Barcelona but in 2019, I came back again, and this time I hope I am here to stay for a while. The year 2019 was in fact a turning point for my scientific career as I manage to secure a European Research Council starting grant that allowed me establish my research group. Furthermore, I am sure that this achievement has a strong connection with the wandering of the previous years, which allowed me to growth both on a scientific and personal level. All the complaining in the past was a bit self-referential as in the end the adventurous choices paid off.

During these 12 years, my research focused on novel semiconductor materials useful for the generation of light. Manipulation and generation of light is nowadays a crucial technology for communication, illumination, display and a myriad of other applications. Study of novel materials and their assessment in new devices is practically a mandatory pathway for the development of novel technologies. A simple example are common light bulbs: their energy consumption went from tens of Watts down to less than ten, with such improvement mostly driven by the development of new materials and device architectures. Displays show a similar trend as they got thinner, curvy, more efficient, and with more vibrant colours. Nonetheless, there is still a large space for improvement as the most efficient light source we can buy for our homes is capable of converting roughly 50% of the energy it consumes in actual light. In addition, novel applications in quantum technologies requires materials and devices able to fulfil new requirements. Such technologies will be part of everyday life in the future and they will allow secure communication networks as well as new computational systems.

The list of semiconductor materials is growing every day but since 2016 I have focused on the study of semiconductor Quantum dots and their capability of emit light. Thanks to the funding granted by the European Research Council, my new research group at IIT is currently developing new methods for the fabrication of devices based on Quantum Dots in order to exploit their capabilities for quantum communication systems and computers. Despite their incredible properties for light-emission, many challenges still lay ahead for this class of materials. Overall, I might be back home but there is still a long scientific journey ahead…