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Hernán Garate - From Buenos Aires to Saclay

Dr. Garate, Argentina, arrived at CEA-Saclay in January 2016 for a period of 20 months. He is working at LIONS group on the following research project: "Exploring Phase Separation Behavior of Poly(amic acid) Salts in Water to Develop Porous Polymer Structures for Making Innovative Membranes​". 
He agreed to share his experience as a Eurotalents fellow with us, read the full interview below!​

Published on 6 September 2016
  • ​Could you briefly t​ell us about your professional experience before coming to CEA?

Between 2009 and 2014, I studied at the University of Buenos Aires where I got my PhD in Organic Chemistry. Afterwards, I worked for about two years in industry at YPF Technology, a company that develops R&D activities for the Oil and Gas Industry and is especially dedicated to assist YPF, which is an equivalent of Total in Argentina. After this experience, and in order to boost my career, I wanted to find a research position in Europe. I read an ad in Nature Jobs and after contacting the principal researcher in the laboratory I was applying to, he suggested that I should apply to Enhanced Eurotalents. I am now here at CEA-Saclay, working at LIONS group (Interdisciplinary Laboratory on Nanoscale and Supramolecular Organization) for a period of 20 months.

  • What is your research project about?

The main goal of my project is to develop new membrane technology based on porous polymers to be used in wastewater cleaning processes, especially in the Oil and Gas Industry. With my team, we are working in collaboration with French companies and other academic institutes within a five-member consortium.

  • What are the strengths of your stay at CEA?

This is my first experience abroad, outside Argentina. The postdoctoral stage is crucial before getting a permanent position, which is becoming harder these days. This programme is a great opportunity to establish professional links. Indeed, I think the most important aspect of this stay is that it allows me to widen my professional network at an international scale.
Moreover, I think I bring different inputs to my laboratory. As a matter of fact, throughout my professional life, I have moved from basic research to applied research in industry; I also gained valuable experience in both private and public sector. Having work experience in France is a plus for my CV. Culturally speaking, this is also a very stimulating experience.

  • Do you think you could have lived such an experience without the Enhanced Eurotalents programme?

This programme has many advantages. Thanks to both the programme and my host laboratory, I received a funding which covers the expenses of my project. I also have the opportunity to attend high-level scientific conferences. In addition, as an experimentalist researcher, I need specific equipment to carry out my activities. In my laboratory, I have access to all the equipment and facilities required for the purpose of my project. Also, I have the possibility to ask for devices and materials to other laboratories or partners if needed.

Once again, I am developing my own research network not only in France since I frequently meet researchers coming from different countries such as China, Russia, United States and Korea… I feel there is a sense of community here at CEA. Besides, Paris' region is a very cosmopolitan environment. I think that my stay at CEA will definitely be an asset to get a permanent position in the future.


  • What did you think about the training session "Post-doc: how to manage your career?" you attended at INSTN (CEA – Saclay)?

I had the opportunity to attend a training session about career development in February. Nowadays, it is hard to find a permanent position as a researcher so I found this training session very useful to further develop my communication skills when looking for a job. It also gave me the opportunity to meet other fellows. We all have very similar professional goals, ambitions and worries so it was very pleasant to share our tips and experiences.

  • Would you recommend the Enhanced Eurotalents programme? Why?

I would definitely recommend the programme to anyone willing to carry out a post-doctoral project. CEA is not only about Atomic Energy and the Enhanced Eurotalents programme applies to a great variety of fields, from chemistry to biology through physics and technology (4 panels).

  • How are you enjoying your professional and cultural life in France so far?

I enjoy it a lot. There is a great variety of cultural events and activities to enjoy apart from sightseeing, which I love to do in my spare time. Also, I am attending French classes, even though for the moment I only speak English at CEA.​

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