Valeria Pettorino was awarded with the 2020 MCAA (Marie Curie Alumni Award) for her outstanding career (CEA/IRFU, Saclay) for her work in the Euclid collaboration and her involvement in the scientific community through various activities such as mentoring, event organisation, communication and more recently science diplomacy. This award is presented by the MCAA association, which is an international network of all researchers who have received a Marie Curie Fellowship.
Valeria Pettorino joined the Euclid community of over 2000 members in 2007. Euclid is an ESA satellite due to be launched in 2022 with a very ambitious goal: to understand the expansion of the universe and the nature of dark energy. To answer this question, the satellite is designed to produce a 3D map of the Universe that will provide information about dark energy. This energy, which is a form of energy that is still unknown, may be one of the keys to the origin of the expansion of the Universe and could be analysed by measuring the shapes of 10 billion galaxies and the spectra of 50 million of them.
Valeria has been involved over the years in different aspects of the mission. From the theory around dark energy and gravitational theories, Valeria has opened up to other challenges such as the management of a working group called 'Inter Science Taskforce (IST)' (Euclid STAR Prize 2019). This group has helped to validate the performance of the satellite, needed to achieve the desired scientific results. The IST is now responsible for developing the software to compare the data that will be acquired with the theoretical predictions. This taskforce is at the interface between the different scientific working groups of Euclid and also integrates the essential contributions of Virginia Ajani (PhD), Santiago Casas (post-doc) and Samuel Farrens (computational scientist at DAp) in CosmoStat. The work at the interface of science, technique and theory is what motivates Valeria every day (or well, most of the times)!
"I am happy that I have managed to continue," says Valeria, "despite the constraints linked to the succession of post-docs, the changes of teams in different countries, I have moved 10 times in 11 years, with multiple implications in Euclid. I have always found the motivation to contribute to different aspects of this mission and to manage new responsibilities, whenever there has been an opportunity. I am also glad that, thanks to a new organisation I have put in place, the members of the IST team are so motivated to work together and with a willingness to share and meet that I have hardly seen before. I don't see physics as just about distinguished personalities, but as collaborative work between many people, often not visible enough."
This prize is also a reward for Valeria's involvement in the scientific community. Her involvement is manifold, including the organisation of schools on cosmology and conferences, in particular for the scientific and industrial community gathered around the Python programme language, EuroPython, but also communication and sharing her passion with the general public. Since 2015, she has been involved in the international mentoring and networking programme called "The supernova foundation" which allows women students and post-docs around the world to exchange with more experienced colleagues, and which today welcomes almost 400 mentors and mentees from 53 countries, as well as a mentor in the Women in Science network of Paris-Saclay since 2020.
Her involvement in her scientific community has recently developed in another field, that of science diplomacy: how diplomacy and science interact and cooperate with their respective competences in order to address major global challenges, such as space exploration. Valeria Pettorino trained in this field through European projects (https://www.s4d4c.eu/) and then applied it by organising a virtual round table on 'Scientific Diplomacy in Space Exploration', in collaboration with the Italian Embassy in France and the associations Alumni Polito Paris, and DIRE - Donne italiane rete estera, of which she is vice-president since 2020 (round table in Italian here) Beyond her work, she has immersed herself in this new world in order to decode the complex relationships between science, diplomacy and international politics that are the basis of all large international collaborations in astrophysics.