Tuesday 07 Mar 2017

A Day in the Life of a CERN Scientist

On the 31st January nine girls, studying higher level physics at La Châtaigneraie campus, visited CERN and shadowed nine women scientists for the day. The main objective of this project, organised by Dr. Ian Collins, a La Chât physics teacher and himself a former CERN employee, was to encourage girls to consider Science and Technology as a plausible future career by providing each with a role model with whom they could discuss their aspirations, dreams, and even inhibitions in continuing in science as a career.

“It was incredible spending time individually with women who have worked at CERN and have experience in the domain. They gave interesting opinions and outside views into what they think would be the best career choice for us.” Rebecca.

In the morning, Kate Kahle, from the communications department, introduced the group to CERN, showing that it is possible for women to have a rewarding and successful career at CERN. Kristof Schmieden introduced them to the ATLAS experiment and answered admirably the young scientists’ questions on diverse topics such as the existence of dark matter or how neutrinos travel faster than the speed of light. 

A visit of the Synchrocyclotron put into context the technological developments required to realise the LHC and associated experiments. In the S’Cool lab, the girls built their own cloud chamber and were enthusiastic to identify the particles that created the tracks they had observed. 

“I learned from the cloud chamber experiment about the behaviour of different types of particles". Nina 

After lunch the girls met the scientist they would shadow for the rest of the day. 

"I learned a lot about working at CERN, studying physics, and general life lessons from the woman scientist I shadowed”. Nina

The day was a huge success, both for the girls and the scientists, who clearly enjoyed spending some of their valuable time with enthusiastic young scientists. A win-win situation. The girls also learned about the importance of self-confidence, that it's alright not to know exactly what you want to do in life at this point, and that whatever you choose to study does not define what you will do in the future - a physics degree will open doors to many different careers.

 “I thought it was a really eye-opening and encouraging experience. I was struggling with envisioning a possible future career in science, but after visiting CERN it was solidified in my mind.” Nicci

On behalf of the girls, we are grateful to Genevieve Guinot for her support of the project and especially to all the scientists that volunteered to be shadowed. A special thanks to Tommaso Portaluri, with support from the PACMAN project, for his excellent planning and organisation to make for a successful day.

“It was very well organised and I hope that the trip is run for many more girls, and eventually boys in the future.” Nicci. 

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