Profile: Dr Marina Filip
Dr Marina Filip completed her PhD in Materials Science in 2015, followed by a post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Materials at the University of Oxford (2015-2018). Between 2018 and 2020 she was a postdoctoral scholar at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and the Department of Physics at UC Berkeley. Marina joined the faculty of the Department of Physics at the University of Oxford as Associate Professor in Condensed Matter Physics in February 2020.
How did you become an academic?
I come from a family of educators – my mother is a Physics teacher and my father is a Physics professor – I’ve watched them really enjoy their careers and heard about all of their students’ achievements. I always thought that helping young people find their passion is a really rewarding way to spend a career. Academia really appealed to me in particular because the job of an academic is so diverse. Between classroom teaching, research, mentoring graduate students and postdocs, collaborating with colleagues worldwide, travelling and speaking at conferences, there is always something exciting going on.
As for how I became an academic, I graduated with a Physics degree from the University of Bucharest in Romania, I then came to Oxford for a PhD. I stayed in Oxford after graduation for my first postdoc, and then moved to UC Berkeley for my second postdoc. Shortly after that, I accepted a position in the Physics Department at Oxford and joined as an Associate Professor and a Tutorial Fellow at Univ. The academic track route is not without its challenges. I have been very lucky along the way to have mentors that are not only exceptional scientists but are also very kind people, generous with their knowledge, time and advice.
What are you researching at the moment?
I work on computational modelling and design of semiconductors and insulators which are interesting for optoelectronic applications. Currently, I am interested in a very broad family of materials called “perovskites”, which host a very wide variety of chemical compositions. My group develops and applies computational modelling techniques to understand the electronic and optical properties of materials within this family and design new materials which can be useful for applications in devices like solar cells or LEDs.
How have you found teaching and researching during lockdown?
My day-to-day research is computer-based, so from a practical point of view it was not hard to switch to working from home. I keep regular contact with students and collaborators, and this has helped a lot with keeping feelings of isolation at bay. Of course, nothing compares to having a great scientific discussion face to face, or attending a really good conference or seminar in person. I definitely miss the little things we usually take for granted, like running into a colleague on the hallways of your department, having coffee in the common room, or even just having a really good face to face meeting with colleagues.
It is a pleasure to teach our undergraduate students in any setting – I am always inspired by their energy and curiosity, they keep me on my toes and make me look forward to every tutorial. This year has been hard on everyone, but I would say especially hard on our students. I was very impressed by our students’ resolve and resilience in the face of such difficult circumstances.
What is your favourite part of being an academic?
The people I get to interact with every day: all my students, my colleagues and my collaborators. I get to meet, discuss and work with truly remarkable people on a daily basis, and I consider myself very lucky for that.
Do you have any funny/favourite moments from your time at Univ?
The highlight of my year was meeting my undergraduate students in person for the first time at the end of this academic year! We held tutorials exclusively online this year, and being a new fellow I haven’t had the chance to meet any of them in person at all until the end of Trinity Term. Everyone was in 3D, I almost did not recognize some of my students at first because I had only seen them on camera wearing headphones … it was really great to finally see them in person!
Do you have any advice for prospective students?
Be yourself, and be open to all the new experiences and opportunities that lie ahead. I know that it can feel a bit daunting coming to Oxford as a new student – I felt the same when I first arrived here from Romania. One thing that I realized eventually was that I didn’t need to do anything special to “fit in” because what really brings us all together is how much we love to learn about and from each other. Your background, your experience and your stories enrich all of our lives here at Univ, so don’t be afraid to share them.
Describe Univ in three words.
Inclusive. Open. Beautiful.
You can find out more about Dr Filip here.
Published: 9 August 2021