Blog Post: ‘Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done’ by Javi Fernández Castañón

Our Blog feature gives members of COLLDENSE the opportunity to discuss their role and experiences within the network. In this post, Early Stage Researcher Javi tells us about his research and experiences with COLLDENSE so far.

Robert A. Heinlein published his novel “The Rolling Stones” in 1952. This fiction story about the Stones family, inhabitants of the Moon, taught us “Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done.”

My name is Javi Fernández Castañón and I grew up in the Spanish small region of Asturias 25 years ago. After some time jumping from one country to another, I am extremely happy to finally have found myself in such an endearing city as Rome.

In November 2015 I started my Ph.D. at the Physics Department of the University of Rome “La Sapienza”. This first year seems to be full of challenges and experiences that will definitively form the cornerstone of my professional and personal future.
In just four months, the huge wings of the COLLDENSE network have allowed me to share experiences with international students, researchers and professors, showing me the great potential of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie research actions.

While it is true that the road ahead is still long and full of nooks, or as the say in Rome, “uffa!” 🙂 , the job environment, new friendships, new goals and the security of being surrounded by researchers and professors who are already leaders in their fields of research, will help to make this route more manageable.

There is much more to be discovered, and this is my main motivation, let’s say: work to discover something previously unknown. My Ph.D. project is focused on the experimental development and characterization, via light and neutron scattering techniques, of DNA hydrogels. The point of this research is that, besides its undeniable biological and genetic relevance, DNA has been postulated as one of the most outstanding candidates to compose the next generation of biocompatible nanomaterials. The success of these multifunctional devices will strongly depend on our ability to control the design of specific structures with programmed response.

An amazing new branch of nanotechnology, the so-called DNA nanotechnology, is in position to take off with fascinating applications in fields as diverse as medicine and drug delivery, bioengineering, telecommunications, or computing. Paradoxically, the responsible of storing our genetic information, something as natural as life itself, could be the perfect ingredient to start creating new functional materials to improve the quality of our lives in so many different ways.

This target requires an active collaboration between different research fields, such as Biology, Chemistry and Physics, which together with the DNA technological potential and the world-class theoretical work recently developed in the groups leaded by Prof. Francesco Sciortino and Prof. Emanuela Zaccarelli, two of the COLLDENSE promoters based in Rome, constitute an unbeatable starting line for any PhD student.