Natalia Ares

Natalia Ares

Please briefly introduce yourself and what you are currently doing.

I am a Royal Society University Research Fellow and I am currently exploring quantum engines and other quantum technologies. My experiments interface with artificial intelligence algorithms and require temperatures far colder than the deepest outer space.

When did you join St Anne’s and how have you found your time at the College?

I joined St. Anne’s in October 2016. St. Anne’s is a vibrant community, and I have greatly enjoyed being part of it. It has an exceptional group of academics and their research and teaching experiences are inspiring. I particularly value their enthusiasm for academic excellence and for championing women. Joining St Anne’s has also allowed me to meet students, to be part of their university life, and to give them support in advancing their careers. I felt part of St. Anne’s family from day one.

What is your favourite place in Oxford?

I love all of Oxford, each place has its own magic! I am particularly fond of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Not only because natural sciences are my passion, but because of its history and architecture.

What is your specialist subject and how did you become interested in this area?

I am a physicist, specialised in quantum mechanics. As a teenager, I loved Maths and reading about how things work. It was not clear to me what a physicist investigates and how, until I found a science course for high school students. During this course I met physicists, chemists and biologists. I rapidly realised that my passion was to realise experiments that would lead to a leap in the understanding of physical phenomena and how to control it. This experience convinced me of the importance of outreach and mentorship. Why quantum? Quantum makes everything more amazing, and more fun!

Have you found any challenges working in academia? If so, how have you overcome them?

I have found many challenges working in academia. But I have been extremely lucky, and I have had the support of wonderful people. Prof. Andrew Briggs is a tireless mentor. One of his phrases to encourage fellowship and grant applications is: ‘Panels are irremediably biased against people who do not apply’. Being a South American woman in academia, I face particular challenges. As a woman in a male-dominated field, St Anne’s alumna Maria Willetts has been an exceptional mentor for me. Maria and David Willets have given me invaluable support in particularly challenging situations, with the warmth of a family. I have found role models, in particular Prof. Sonia Contera, who has taught me that academia is a lot more than science. She made me aware of all the difficulties that minorities face and why, and her transformative work in all aspects of equity and diversity in academia is inspiring. These mentors and role models are also helping me to become a better mentor for others.

What is your advice for any others looking to pursue academia?

Reach out! You might not think so, but there are fantastic people out there willing to help you!

Have you joined St Anne’s from another institution? If so where and how do you find the two places differ?

I completed my undergraduate studies at Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina and my Ph.D. degree at Université Grenoble Alpes, France. These are amazing institutions with excellent academics. At Oxford, and in particular at St Anne’s, I have found particularly enriching the interaction with academics of different disciplines. At lunch, I find myself not only discussing with Prof. Chris Grovernor about superconductivity or with Prof. Alex Rogers about artificial intelligence, for example, but also learning from Prof. Terry O’Shaughnessy about economics!

What is your favourite way to relax?

I used to skate professionally. When I arrived to Oxford, I started ballet as an absolute beginner. I really enjoy it, although I must admit I am not at the level of Dame Darcey Bussell yet! I was tremendously excited when she was interviewed at a St Anne’s Be Well, Do Well event.