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Because He Was Worth It

E. Jardin

Since July 2005, Roberto Santoprete has been employed as researcher by L’Oréal after years of study and research in Italy, Brazil and Germany.

1999. Italy. After a predoctoral degree in statistical physics, Roberto was tempted by the sirens of a trip abroad. He had a Brazilian girlfriend at the time, and was in contact with a physicist in Brazil. So, taking the opportunity of a two-month stay in the land of the samba, Roberto applied to the doctoral program at the Federal University of Rio. He had to submit a résumé, sit for written tests, including a five-hour physics exam and undergo an interview. Roberto came out on top major in the exam and landed a four-year scholarship. “At the same time, I’d applied to the Brazilian Center for Research in Physics in Rio. I was also accepted there but opted for the university instead.” Why did the scales tip in that direction? Two factors weighed in: the reputation of his Brazilian research director and the possibility of a joint project with the Max Planck Institute. On starting his thesis, Roberto knew he would spend a year and a half in Germany at this prestigious research facility. For him, the experience was crucial because he knew that internationally, a PhD done in Brazil could be perceived as a handicap. He figured that with Max Planck on his résumé, that would balance things out.

The French job market is elitist
2004. As soon as he’d pocketed his PhD, Roberto went to join his wife in France. What to do? Roberto was not familiar with job-hunting techniques in France. He looked at the offers on the ABG website and decided that the job market was very elitist: “Basically, if you’re a graduate of a grande école, you have a rosy future laid out, but if you’re a university graduate, then things are going to be very tough.” Given these considerations, Roberto went for a post-doc in a prestigious engineering school. In October he began an eight-month post-doc at Polytechnique. A decision that ended up paying off. Roberto surfed job sites and trawled forums. Access to the Polytechnique alumni network made his job search easier. A few applications later, he interviewed at Renault and L’Oréal. The Max Planck and Polytechnique trademarks certainly helped, but especially, his international profile (Roberto speaks four languages) and his capacities to adapt to different subjects in physics were assets that apparently appealed to L’Oréal, according to Roberto.