When you serve as a mattress and your postdoc becomes your friend
Claudia Aguilera was that typical young woman that I met here and there but I had nothing particular to say or think about her until she applied for a postdoc position I was offering in 2019. From the application I didn’t find that she had the exact skills I was looking for but her interview was outstanding so she got the job offer. It was during the pandemic and I saw the benefit to hire a chilean person at a time that borders were closed, and I got excited to hire a chilean woman in stellar astrophysics, because we’re quite few so our community could benefit from a chance.
Claudia accepted, and few months later the situation of the pandemic became better and we could start in-person activities. I could see Claudia with different eyes, she was not a typical young woman, but rather an enthusiastic and clever team member. Her positive energy and motivation to understand new things significantly changed the dynamics of the group, spreading her smile and enthusiasm towards those next to her.
Going back to UDP after the long quarantine to meet Claudia and talk about science, while laughing about the mistakes and difficulties of our proposed problems, was very motivating for me. It was so nice to come back to the office, and dream together about the great moments awaiting for us when the entire group from outside Chile would get their visas and be with us.
Once the group started coming back, Claudia asked me to write her a recommendation letter for a faculty job at PUC. Just thinking of loosing her and having to miss her smile made me sad but understanding that this would mean keeping Claudia as a colleague for many years was very satisfactory all the same.
The painting in the background of the image was done by the artist Piero Maturana and culminated a beautiful outreach programme called Gen Universal funded by the Millenium Nucleus ERIS which aims at teaching kids to think critically. This wall belongs to a school in Lota. This picture marks a special moment in which both Claudia and I are embracing the joy of simply feeling like the girl painted in that wall: amazed, excited curios and of course, proud of brining Gaia to Lota.
I’m proud to have served as a mattress for a young talented woman to reach the sky. I’m looking forward to witness how Claudia keeps flourishing with her colleagues at PUC, and I’m happy to have made in Chile a new good friend who challenges me intellectually while allowing me to feel again like a child.