Jessica Genta:«I feel responsible for making a contribution toward finding solutions.»
28.02.2017 | Alumni Portraits
By: 360° Magazin, Open Systems AG
Jessica Genta is a masters student within the «Excellence Scholarship & Opportunity Programme». Magazine 360° asked her about the application process, her studies and her future.
Ms. Genta, you are completing your master’s degree at ETH Zurich with a scholarship from the «Excellence Scholarship & Opportunity Programme». How did it come about?
It had always been my dream to do a master’s degree in engineering at ETH in Zurich. When I first heard about the scholarship, I was naturally somewhat unsure about whether I would even manage to obtain it. But after I looked into the requirements more closely, I felt that my chances were good. In the end, trying for the scholarship was also an exciting challenge that really appealed to me.
The application process is extremely exacting and challenging for students. Did you get that impression as well?
Yes, the requirements are, indeed, very high. You need to be considerably motivated and enthused about what you are studying in order to successfully complete the application. Apart from good grades, excellence counts in all aspects of your application, which means you should prove that you are generally capable of thinking in a rational and systematic way, and of developing new ideas. An important part of the application is a detailed description of the master’s thesis you are planning to write. Of course that compels you early on – in the third year of your bachelor studies – to know specifically which area of research you intend to focus on years later. In addition, you must have high technical competence in order to be capable of anticipating which topics will be relevant in the targeted research areas.
I think that the effort and tough selection process are justified. After all, this is a rather special scholarship, which is about bringing talented individuals to ETH from all over the world. ETH not only sponsors us financially, but also supports us in other areas; for example, in networking.
Did you know early on that you wanted to become an engineer?
Not just that I wanted to become an engineer, but also that I wanted to study material science. During my bachelor studies, I quickly started heading towards a specialization in renewable energy and sustainability. It is my opinion that the energy supply will be one of the greatest challenges we will face in the future.
You completed your bachelor’s degree at the Politecnico di Milano in Italy. Why did you decide that it had to be ETH Zurich for your further studies?
My bachelor’s degree in Milan was very interesting and instructive. It was a foundation course that provided basic knowledge and tended to be heavy on the theory. In a master’s programme you work much more independently and in the areas that you would like to focus on later. ETH has an excellent reputation and you meet people from all over the world there. Additionally, ETH offers an outstanding general framework for research and has courses with very high practical relevance due to its close contact with industry. I’ve set myself a specific personal goal and I’m firmly convinced that ETH can support me best in reaching this goal.
What does your goal look like exactly?
In my master’s studies I’m currently getting acquainted with the various topics in the field of energy conversion and storage, which are decisive for renewable energies. Then I can write my master’s thesis about the topic that fascinates me most and in which I would like to start my career. Besides the final paper, we write reports on two additional research projects in the master’s programme. That also gives us the opportunity to become more familiar with the various institutes in our department or in the entire ETH.
And now you’re doing an internship at the ABB research center?
Exactly, the industry internship makes it possible for me to gain some insight into another area of renewable energies for six months – here we’re examining the important role that material science plays in the field of energy from a new perspective. At the same time, it’s also a major opportunity to work here with highly qualified people and to learn from them. I think that the quality of scienceis strongly dependent on people.
In that case, you don’t see research as a matter for the individualist on the principle of every researcher for himself?
Not at all. Research, whether at ETH or at a company like ABB, is purely a team sport. To me it’s like basketball, a sport at which I’ve been training hard for over the years. Research at this level cannot be done alone. Success is largely dependent on the best people exchanging their ideas and finding new paths together. Thinking for yourself is important. But what’s even more important is sharing with others what you discovered, in order to get feedback.
And then you’ll write your master’s thesis at ETH?
Yes, I would like to write my master’s thesis at the Institute for Electrochemical Materials under Prof. Jennifer Rupp. I will be working very intensively on batteries there.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time? Will you become a professor at ETH Zurich?
Today I would say probably not. After my master’s degree is completed, I intend to do a PhD dissertation in any case. After that I can well imagine making a move into industry. I find it exciting when research and production are very near each other and when they work closely together. In addition to the technical challenge, I would certainly find it extremely appealing to start and develop my own company. But for now I’ll just take one step at a time. I don’t think it makes an awful lot of sense to plan too much in advance. So far, every step I’ve taken in my life has brought me further. I feel responsible for making a contribution toward finding solutions for how we can deal meaningfully and sustainably with energy in the future. This motivates me and I am happy to fully do my part every day.