Heloisa Bordallo

Associate Professor (Lektor) - Niels Bohr Institute

Heloisa Bordallo

Can you tell us about your studies? What scientific field did you specialise in?

I studied Physics and obtained a MSc in Laser Optics at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. During my Master thesis I built my own pulsed laser system, which I used during my research project and which was then used to develop 2 master thesis and one PhD! That was a real hands-on task! On time and without budget!!!

My PhD in Condensed Matter Physics, I received at the Université Montpellier II, in the South of France, where I also presented my habilitation (HDR) in 2008.

The main focus of my research is to understand structure-property relations that lead to polymorphism in crystalline amino acids and small drugs as well as dynamics in confinement, for instance water in clays and hardened-cement pastes and encapsulated anesthetics. In my research I use different scattering methods such as X-rays, Raman and neutrons. In addition, I am also interested in the development of new neutron instruments.

Tell us more about your neutron-scattering background

At the end of my PhD I did my first neutron experiment using the triple-axis spectrometer IN3 at the ILL with Roland Currat, Alain Bulou and Robert Almairac, all without a doubt triple-axis experts. It was a cold shower but I learnt a lot! We published a PRB paper with our results, for me, one of my most beautiful papers!

After that I went to work in the Los Alamos Neutron Scattering Center in the USA with Juergen Eckert. At LANSCE I had my first contact with spallation neutron sources and I started looking into hydrogen dynamics. I had a very good time there, made good friends and met my husband.

Next station, the Intense Pulsed Neutron Source at Argonne also in the USA, where I worked in close collaboration with Ken Herwig and started learning the beautiful world of water in confinement. At that time I also started doing some instrument simulations, and designed a neV resolution backscattering instrument. Not yet built… but who knows???

Can you tell us step by step how you reached your current position?

After spending about 5 years as postdoctoral and research fellow in the USA, in 2002 my husband and I came to Germany to work as research scientists in the Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin. In Berlin I had the chance to work together with Ruep Lechner and Marie-Claire Bellissent-Funel, two neutron time-of-flight experts, and I could learn a lot from them.
I spent 2005 at the Institut Laue-Langevin in France, where I had the great chance to work together with Bernhard Frick on the development of IN16B. During this last years, I set the basis for my career, formed students on neutron scattering and developed strong collaborations.

Then, came the BIG change! In March 2011 I became Associated Professor at the Niels Bohr Institute, my job is connected in part to the long awaited European Spallation Source (ESS) project. ESS is the next generation, high flux spallation neutron source for Europe, which will allow scientists and students to look deep inside the structure of materials, helping solving complex problems as well as fulfilling human scientific curiosity.

I see the University of Copenhagen and the Niels Bohr Institute as a perfect place for me. I will now be able to accomplish my dream of working in a great academic environment in close contact with highly motivated students and at the same time be part of the ESS-Copenhagen project! That is just wonderful, I have no real words to say how happy I am with this incredible opportunity.

Have you got publications?

I worked a lot for each one of them, and each single one has a history that involves long hours of work but also a lot of joy. In addition neutron and synchrotron experiments allow you to get to know many people and make amazing friends, thus each piece of work that becomes a publication is a collection of many wishes, ideas and dreams! It feels like composing a new piece of nice music!

What percentage of your time do you dedicate to your family/ work/ for you?

My husband, being also a neutron scatterer, is always close by, so I really do not know how to answer this question. But I think that it is fundamental to keep a balance. Also, I cannot live without my massage, my yoga, my gym, my outside of work friends, my trips to Brazil to visit my family, so I guess I manage time well.
On the other hand, I always had the great chance to work with people that managed to stop for lunch, dinner, or coffee, go home and at the same time have pleasure while at work.

Who or what is your mentor or greatest inspiration?

I cannot name one mentor or one greatest inspiration. But, I can say that my family and my husband are my biggest supporters, while my friends are amazing therapists!

What is the most challenging thing you have faced in your career?

Being away from my family, friends and colleagues in Brazil.

Contact details

Heloisa N. Bordallo
Associate Professor (Lektor)
Niels Bohr Institute
(H.C. Ørsted Institute, bldg. D)
University of Copenhagen
Universitetsparken 5
2100 Copenhagen

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