Eduard Matito was graduated in Chemistry at the University of Girona and he performed the PhD in the former Institut de Química Computacional (IQC) under the supervision of Prof. Miquel Solà and Prof. Miquel Duran in the field of computational chemistry and method development. Then, he worked as a postdoctoral investigator in the groups of Prof. Ove Christiansen in Denmark, Prof. Jerzy Cioslowski in Poland and Prof. Jesús Ugalde in the Basque Country (Spain). On 2011 he returned to the Institute as a junior group leader. Nowadays, and since April 2015, he is an Ikerbasque researcher in the Donostia International Physics Center (DIPC) and the University of the Basque Country (EHU/UPV). His group constists of five PhD students and a postdoc. His research includes method development, chemical bonding and aromaticity.
- You performed the PhD here in the IQCC and some years later, you return as a Junior Group Leader. How do you remember those years working in the Institute?
It felt quite different… Back in the day when I was a PhD student, the IQCC did not exist and I was part of the former IQC, which was a pure computational institute. The IQC grew significantly during my PhD days, turning into a highly competitive but friendly environment. We all worked in a close proximity and it was easy to keep track of each other’s research. When I returned after four years the institute was much larger, including excellent inorganic and organic experimental chemistry groups, which were distributed among the Campus and the Scientific Park. This quantumleap that required a different, more structured organization. This process was ongoing when I joined the group. Being a much larger structure, the IQCC had to identify the leading research lines, set up a web page, find common interests, etc. At the beginning, the IQCC fostered young group leaders and I felt compelled to start my own research group. I recruited a PhD and a postdoc student to commence a new research line on computational method development. It was all very exciting and challenging: I depended on several competitive grants to fund my own research and my salary.
- Now, you have your own research group in the University of the Basque Country. Why do you decided to go there?
During my time at the IQCC I obtained three competitive grants, which I used to cover my salary and those of the people working with me. I also repeatedly applied for a tenure-track position (Ramon y Cajal) and I did not get it, so at some point I had to make a decision. My impression was that this call was biased against my research line, so I decided to apply for a position elsewhere. I considered different possibilities and the Basque Country was the most attractive option by far. Some years ago, they had started a research program, Ikerbasque, which had a call very similar to Ramon y Cajal. I was given the certainty that I could conduct my own research lines and there would be competitive funding possibilities. So, I applied for a tenure-track position at the University of the Basque Country and got it. After three years at the IQCC, I decided to move my research group there.
- Can you briefly explain us which is the main focus of your research?
My research mostly focuses on the development of new computational methods and the improvement of existing techniques to perform molecular simulations, which is generically known as the electron correlation problem. Despite the enormous success of some computational theories, such as density functional theory, there are still a number of phenomena that cannot be correctly reproduced. For instance, van der Waals (vdW) interactions in excited states or the spin splitting of some transition-metal complexes are among the most difficult properties to simulate. We have recently unveiled a new condition of VdW interactions that we are using to improve the description of this type of London dispersion forces in excited states. We are also working on the separation of electron correlation to construst approximations tailored to particular deficiencies of computational methods.
- Do you have still some relationship with the Institute? (collaborations, master…)
I still keep a close relationship with the IQCC. I have many friends working there and, despite the changes, it always felt like home. I try to pay a visit once or twice a year. For the last five years, I have taught a chemical bonding course at the MacMOM master. I also have open collaborations with Ferran Feixas, Miquel Solà, Josep M. Luis and Pedro Salvador. I have actually completed a three-year MINECO project with Josep M. and, a few months ago, we applied for a collaborative project with him and Pedro. I also have ongoing collaborations with former members of the institute: Miquel Torrent (now in the Basque Country) and Julio Lloret (at the ICIQ, in Tarragona).
- Do you think the IQCC has changed since you were here?
Since the time I left, the IQCC has evolved. Now there is new large research unit, the CompBioLab, which has increased the competitiveness. The other computational part of the IQCC has reorganized and some people have joined forces to push forward some research lines. The QBIS unit has now three permanent senior researchers and a new young research leader, whereas the METSO has put young people at the forefront of the unit. The collaboration among the different research units can be further enhanced, but I see many more joint projects among the members of the IQCC. The IQCC has turned into a multidisciplinar, highly competitive institute that can compete tête-à-têtewith the best research institutes of Spain. More success is waiting ahead.
- What do you expect your life will be in five years?
I have worked in five research labs in ten years and I still do not hold a permanent position, so I am not 100% certain where I will be in five years. However, Ikerbasque is offering a route towards the permanent position and my plan is to follow it. So, if everything goes well, I expect my group will consolidate at the Donostia International Physics Center (DIPC), surrounded by a friendly and highly competitive atmosphere.
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