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Matteo Montagnese, Senior Scientist, Photonic Systems

Matteo Montagnese is a solid-state physicist with a spectroscopy and laser background. He joined SAL as a Senior Scientist in 2021 after more than ten years of gaining valuable experience all over Europe as a postdoc in different universities in the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland.



“You can have the best minds and equipment, but a collaborative work environment makes all the difference.”



Ciao Matteo! After working in different universities all over Europe, why did you make the choice to switch to applied research and to SAL?

I enjoy the challenge of putting what I have learned and my passion for physics to service to solve problems. The research at SAL is application-oriented, and it is very rewarding to work towards a bigger, tangible objective.

Something I appreciate at SAL that you don’t have at university is collaborating with experienced colleagues and clients who have other competences that you don’t have. Other than that, I always enjoyed working in a lab, managing small groups of researchers or students and being a project manager in general, so the concept of SAL fits me very well.

I’d also like to add that at SAL, I have really found a great like-minded research community. Because that’s what it all comes down to in the end: The right people. You can have the best minds and equipment, but a collaborative work environment makes all the difference.

What are your current undertakings at SAL?

I have two different main tasks: On the one hand, I am a project manager. At the moment I’m involved in MicroAcqua, a project where we work on micro-optical assemblies. On the other hand, I am charged with the task of developing a new ecosystem section of our Research Unit which will focus on fiber optics. This will prove useful for industries with harsh environments where normal electronics won’t work.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

Before I go upstairs to my office and the coffee machine, I always tour the labs first, stopping to chat with colleagues and discussing news and challenges of the day. Coffee in the morning is important, but so is the lab :-)

Then I get on with the office work, answering e-mails, discussing strategies and working on new project proposals. It might seem like the “boring” work compared to being in the lab, but to grow professionally I think you have to have a mix of both. Later, I share a lunch break with my colleagues, because the best ideas always come in a relaxed environment.

What was your highlight at SAL so far?

Apart from my research highlights, I really enjoyed going to the Villacher Kirchtag with my colleagues. I am originally from Udine in Italy, so I always lived close to Villach, but working here and getting to witness Austrian traditions firsthand made me appreciate my Austrian neighbors even more :-)

What do you appreciate about SAL?

I appreciate the collaborative work environment. I joined SAL in 2021, which was not an easy year for anyone, but my colleagues made my transition into SAL and the first few months very easy and worthwhile! We are a very close-knit community, and I look forward to coming to work every morning.

Do you have a professional role model?

I look up to a lot of the senior researchers I work with. One person that specifically comes to mind is my thesis adviser and first boss at university, whom I respect a lot. What’s important though is to be critical of the human qualities of your supervisors and learn from their successes as well as their mistakes!


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