Rocío Tejido Rastrilla

Marie Curie Innovative Training Network PhD student (Italy)

Former researcher in physical chemistry at the University of Burgos (Spain)

Rocío Tejido RastrillaAcademic research experience

After obtaining my Master’s degree in Chemistry at the University of Burgos, I joined the physical chemistry research group at the same university. I worked there for a year in a collaboration project between the University of Burgos and the University of Pisa (Italy). I was working on the characterisation and determination of kinetic constants of the complex Hoechst/RNA. We published a paper with the results achieved and I attended a conference at which I presented a poster.  

I was then offered the opportunity to enrol as a PhD student, but the offer came without financial support. I had to reject the proposal due to lack of adequate funding. During my earlier university studies in Burgos, I had obtained an Erasmus fellowship and had spent an academic year at the University of Florence. I decided to go back to Italy in order to find other opportunities because I felt that leaving the academic environment could help me to find new options.

Transition from academic research

First of all, I have to thank the European Commission for all its Actions. Once I was based in Italy, I took part in the “Youth Guarantee” programme. After that, I found out about the Marie Curie Innovative Training Networks (ITN) programme. The EURAXESS portal helped me discover these and other opportunities.

It wasn’t a smooth transition, though. After I left the University of Burgos, I was unemployed for a year and a half. While I was searching for work outside academia, I started to write a revealing blog about chemistry to help me keep active and not give up.

When I secured a placement through the Youth Guarantee, I spent six months at the Hospital of Prato (Italy), in the department of occupational health and safety. My work was in chemical risk assessment: I was in a team that made sure the hospital complied with its legal obligations and I helped produce a Risk Evaluation document as part of this.

Then I found out about Marie Curie Innovative Training Networks (ITN), a scheme that brings together partners from different sectors and different countries. I was intrigued by the option of working in an industrial environment but with a close relationship with academia. What I found most challenging was writing the research proposal and other documentation for my application. In this respect, my university professors from Spain and Italy helped me a lot. I was very concerned about my skills and how I would measure up in an industrial environment. I kept thinking, “Am I ready to take on this challenge?”

Despite my doubts, I was successful in obtaining an ITN position. It combines continuous development in a industrial environment in Italy with enrolment in a doctoral programme at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (Germany). I am employed at Colorobbia Consulting S.r.l. (, doing my research work in an industrial environment in order to achieve my PhD.

Current job – and how it compares                       

Now at Colorobbia Consulting’s research centre, I am working with coatings and their deposition on different surfaces. This could be useful in the field of orthopedic and dental implants or tissue engineering.

The highs are, for example, the achievement of a good result, and, of course, all the team that I work with. The lows are that the industrial world is changing continuously, but at the same time it’s good to be stretched by such challenges.

I have also had to get used to industry’s different aims. Whereas research in academia is judged by the publication of scientific papers, in an industrial environment research is more focused on patents and results that can lead to an economic return.

Competencies old and new

Since I still work in research  and am doing my PhD studies, the components of my role are not so different from those in the past. The technical skills achieved during my academic research experience are still useful in my daily work. The competencies I’ve improved are meeting deadlines and planning and organizing work activities.

Reflections on my career path

I would have liked to have known sooner that is possible to do research activity outside the academic realm. I would have focused earlier on exploring European Commission opportunities.

Along the way, my main challenges have been to: move abroad (I am Spanish, and I live in Italy); realise that industrial research activity is not so different from academia (which sometimes is a psychological obstacle); and, finally, dare to accept that I am also capable of working outside academia.

Now I feel as much a European citizen as Spanish. My immediate future career plan is to successfully achieve my PhD, and in the longer term, I would like to find a position in a private company. My aspiration is to grow professionally and continue doing research.

My advice

Accept the challenge. Sometimes we are the ones who put an invisible wall between opportunities and ourselves.

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