27/03/2020

Meet Hernán E. Morales, Mexican MSCA researcher in Denmark


Profile:

  • Name: Hernán E. Morales
  • Country of origin: Mexico
  • Host country and institution in Europe: Denmark, Copenhagen University
  • Acronym (title) of MSCA project: GENDANGERED
  • Field of research: Life Sciences

Interview:

Could you tell us a bit about your experience within your research field?

I have 11 years of experience in my field of research. I did a Master in Science at Groningen University (The Netherlands), a PhD in Science in Monash University (Australia) and a postdoc at Gothenburg University (Sweden). I have led and collaborated in various projects with a large network of international collaborators and have published several scientific papers as a result of those projects.

Why did you decide to apply to MSCA? How would you say the experience contributed to your personal and professional growth?

My main motivation was to build my own project from scratch, both to take more control on the direction of my scientific research, and to gain experience as an independent researcher. My experience gave all the needed academic/scientific skills, and since I was lucky to have worked with very supportive mentors that allowed me to have some independence, I also had some of the needed skills to build my own project

What would you say the biggest challenge in the application process was? How did you overcome it?

The challenges, for me, came in two flavors. The academic/scientific challenges included coming up with a good idea and shape it into an ambitious but realistic project. This required shooting very high first with a grand idea and refine it to fit it into a nice coherent project. To achieve this the close advice from my host was essential. The second type of challenge was the administrative one, MSCA is a grant with a very fixed format which is important to understand in order to provide the expected information. Advise from the Science Research & Innovation office at the university and reading previously successful applications was essential to do this well.

From your experience, how does the research environment in Europe differ from that in Latin America, if at all? And, how do you think EURAXESS LAC can further promote research collaborations between Europe and Latin America & the Caribbean?

I personally have little first-hand experience with research in Latin America, that being said, from what I can perceive from some direct experience or what I hear from colleagues, the amount of financing available for science is of course the most obvious difference. This translates into a more supportive, thriving research environment in Europe. However, the strength of the European system relies on its diversity; in all the research groups where I have worked there has been more than 50% international researchers over local researchers. My perception is that Latin (and other) researchers that are used to less abundant resources thrive in most environments because they are often more resourceful, risk-prone and are looking to build networks fast, Europe clearly benefits enormously from having these diverse pools of players. More collaboration can only lead to better results for both Europe and Latin America.

What is your life in Europe like outside the office/lab?

As everything, it has positive and not-so-positive sides. Among the positives is the general high quality of life, the high social trust and the better work-life balance. Among the not-so-positive are all the challenges that come with being an immigrant, including the social and economic costs.

Do you have any advice for young researchers from LAC who are considering applying for a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship?

They should definitely apply once they have reached out to a potential host and their ideas have been well-received. Reach out to potential host very early in the process, ask for all the possible resources the host and university can offer (guidance, workshops, proof-reading, etc). Write the grant with plenty of time before the deadline. Ask colleagues to read it and give feedback. Ask for examples of successful grants. Do not leave the administrative aspects to the very last.

Finally, what’s next for you?

I will carry on with the fellowship and apply for an ERC starting grant next year.