"An incredible opportunity" to study in Aberdeen has given Simona Gabrielli a lifelong love of Scotland - and a PhD in Geosciences.
Simona, (32), from Pescara in Italy, chose the University as the “perfect place” for a geologist who wanted to keep her options open upon completion of her PhD, which she described as “a tough experience but also the most amazing period of my life.”
“I started my PhD when I was almost 30, and usually starting a PhD at that age is considered a long shot as a woman and as a scientist,” she said.
“I was the oldest of almost all of my colleagues, and sometimes I felt lost for this reason. Now, I am a postdoc in Italy, something I couldn't expect at all!
“It has been an incredible experience and I feel I can be an example to all girls who think it's too late to be what they want to be.”
While studying Simona was involved with the Aberdeen University Students’ Association’s Treading The Boards Musical Society, which helped her get to know new people and settle into life at university.
It was towards the end of her PhD journey that coronavirus struck, by which time she had returned home to Italy to complete her thesis.
“We were the first European country on a lockdown, and that period was fundamental because I was concentrating only on my writing, I couldn't go out and I hadn't any kind of distraction. It's a challenging period for everyone and I experienced different feelings, but it didn’t help being far from the University, and from my supervisors.”
Having secured a job soon after the completion of her PhD, Simona is now keeping her options open for the future – with a return to Scotland a potential option.
“I don't know what I will do in the future, but I really hope to continue to be a researcher, and perhaps in a different country. But I'm quite sure one day I'll buy a lovely house in Scotland – I really miss those green hills, whisky and shortbread!”