Good things come in small packages

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Interview by Alessandra Mazzai

Positive, always smiling and full of energy. Let’s get to know the small but explosive Elena Verdolini, the latest winner of the prestigious ERC grant of the SEME Division, senior scientist at the RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment.

What’s your job at the CMCC Foundation?

I am a senior scientist within the Sustainable Earth Modelling Economic Division of the CMCC and at the RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment. I lead the Sustainable Innovation Unit. We study issues related to technological change and innovation in the context of climate change mitigation and, more broadly, of sustainable development.

What brought you to CMCC?

More than “what” I would say “who” brought me to the CMCC. The inspiration for my job market paper came from Valentina Bosetti. Since I started working with her, I never left the CMCC.

Is your current job the one you used to dream of as a child?

No. Not because I wanted to do something else, but simply because I could not imagine myself as an adult, having a real job. After I graduated, I kept searching for the right fit, and ended up becoming a “researcher”. I came to this job relatively late in life, having tried many other things before… but time has proven it is the right fit for me!

Tell us about a special moment during your time at CMCC

Last July, Lara Aleluja Reis, Laurent Drouet and I were on a skype call with Massimo Tavoni, the head of the division. We were having a very heated conversation. All of a sudden, I see a notification from the ERC (European Research Council) secretariat. I was stunned: my heart was beating, I could not read, or even put two words together. Lara had to read the email out loud to me (twice!) because I was not understanding what was happening. It was the invitation to an interview. They made fun of me for months for my reaction.

What do you keep at your workstation?

I have a really silly picture Massimo, Lara, myself and a random plant – do not ask me how we got it in there – at a project meeting in Berlin. We took it after a really really long day of work, and we laughed a lot. And, of course, I also have a collection of drawings that my kids made for me.

How COVID-19 changed your working day?

I stopped commuting and meeting my coworkers in person. After the first week of confusion, we grabbed the bull by the horns. We set up periodic remote meetings with both senior and more junior colleagues, and established good practices for remote working. We talk to each other a lot about work and research. But to keep the morale up we also organize all sorts of social online activities: we have routine workouts in the morning for half an hour, cooking classes (for both kids and grown-ups) on weekends, and a social coffee on Thursday after lunch. We have even had aperitivi, played games remotely, and organized a movie night. COVID-19 is a challenge, but it has once more shown me that we as a group are very resilient, and are great at figuring out coping strategies.

Movies or literature: give me a title and explain your choice

Although I like both, I would say music. I love music because I can listen to it (and crazy dance) pretty much every day with my two kids. I have many favourite songs… this week, I would choose ACIDA by Prozac +. I recently played it. After the first three chords, my older son (six years old) looked at me and asked excitedly: “Mum, should we mosh?!” Of course we did!


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