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Javier Tejada, professor of Condensed Matter Physics at the UB: "University professors should be prepared to change the areas and aims of their research to open doors to new fields"

Javier Tejada Palacios (1948, Spain) is professor of Condensed Matter Physics

Javier Tejada Palacios (1948, Spain) is professor of Condensed Matter Physics

16/08/2011

Entrevistes

Javier Tejada Palacios (1948, Spain) is professor of Condensed Matter Physics at the University of Barcelona, as well as director of the Experimental Magnetism research group and director of the UBX Laboratory (UB-Xerox). His major research achievement was to uncover the first experimental evidence of quantum relaxation in magnets – the discovery of resonant spin tunnelling was listed in Nature magazine as one of the 23 Milestones in Spin. This year he has published the first experimental evidence of quantum rotational motion at the mesoscopic scale. 

Javier Tejada has also worked in various European and American universities such as the Technische Universität in Munich, the Université Paul Sabatier in Toulouse, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Universities of Birmingham and Liverpool and New York and Berkeley universities. He is also a member of the Royal Spanish Society of Physics, the Catalan Society of Physics and the American Physical Society. Tejada has supervised 22 undergraduate dissertations and 28 doctoral theses, has published more than 300 research papers in international journals, garnering him around 5,000 citations, and holds 13 international patents.
 
Javier Tejada has received several prizes and awards, including the Spanish National Physics Award in the category of Physical, Material and Earth Sciences (2009), the International Award from the Xerox Foundation (1998) and the Award for Educational Innovation from the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science (1983), as well as receiving an honorary doctorate from New York University (1996) and being named a Fellow of the American Physical Society (2000).*
 
What is your main field of research at the moment?
In the case of basic research I am working on the quantum properties of tiny magnets and superconductors. The key words in my research are spin tunnelling, superradiance, quantum magnetic deflagration, the interaction between spin systems and surface acoustic waves, quantum free rotors and the rotational Doppler effect in magnetic resonance. 
 
What are the potential applications of your research?
I am working on the development of nanoscale magneto devices to be used for encrypting information and for medical applications in cardiology.   
 
Nanotechnology is considered one of the main challenges of the 21st century. In your view, what will be the greatest impact of this field in the coming years?
I think the development of micro-machines with biological functionalities inside the human body – for signaling viral and bacterial infection, drug delivery, the destruction of cancer cells, cleaning blood vessels, etc.
 
What role should universities play in making Europe a centre for research excellence?
European universities should carry out both fundamental studies and projects with specific short- and long-term applications. There are many highly important areas of scientific work with significant technological implications whose development rests on innovation in physics, chemistry and biology. University professors should be prepared to change the areas and aims of their research to open doors to new fields. The research system should also encourage professors to implement these changes without pressuring them to produce short-term results and publish papers. It is much more important to publish just one very good paper than to work on several less relevant articles. In other words, the impact of the research produced at universities should be analysed in a very different way than has been the case until now, with an excessive number of impact factors that have no meaning at all.  
 
As a teacher at the University of Barcelona, what would you say are the educational keys to producing top researchers?
We should focus on developing an interest in science at a young age and encouraging early student involvement in research.With respect to the teaching process, I am fully of the belief that we should combine traditional directed learning with active student participation. Students should be given the time to see how their lecturers are thinking when solving problems and deriving equations. Excessive use of images and PowerPoint presentations is severely damaging the learning process.  

 

*Interview published at the League of European Research Universities.

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