From women scientists to female students

06 Mar 2017 -- Ioanna Koutava

A day at CERN organised by the Diversity Office and the PACMAN Marie-Curie project.

On January 31st, nine female students from the International School of Geneva came to CERN, accompanied by their Physics teacher, Dr. Ian Collins and took part in an event organised by the CERN Diversity Office in collaboration with the PACMAN Marie-Curie project.

The event was an opportunity for the students to visit CERN, take part in activities, and “shadow” nine women working at CERN as scientists. The aim was to provide inspirational positive role models to female students in their final years of high school.

The day started with an introductory presentation by Kate Kahle, head of the Editorial Content Development at CERN. After a brief discussion, the girls had the opportunity to visit the CERN facilities: an underground visit to ATLAS, then a visit to the Synchrocyclotron and, finally, an interactive workshop in the S’Cool Lab. Kristof Schmieden, Rachel Avramidou and Chiara Rizzi were the guides accompanying the group during these three visits.

In the afternoon, the shadowing took place. Each student was paired with one scientist, whom they spent a couple of hours with. During this time, the students had the opportunity to gain an insight into what the work of a CERN scientist is like, and the scientists were able to share professional and personal stories with them.

Alexandra, Claude, Hannah, Hanne, Johanna, Nuria, Rebeca, Sima, and Yisel are the nine scientists who enthusiastically accepted to be shadowed. They have diverse backgrounds and experience. Alexandra Feistmantl is a high school physics teacher; she is doing her PhD at CERN, working on physics education research. Claude Sanz is a metrologist. She is currently working on a Marie-Curie project: the PACMAN project, which aims to develop a new alignment technique for CLIC’s modules. Hannah Short holds a degree in Astrophysics; during her career she has moved towards the software development and IT sector, and currently works on cybersecurity issues at CERN. Hanne Heylen is a PhD in Experimental Nuclear Physics; at CERN, she works in the ISOLDE facility investigating the structure of the atomic nucleus. Johanna Pitters is a PhD student; she also works on the ISOLDE project, mostly in relation to the domain of medical physics. Nuria Egidos Plaja is an engineer working at CERN as a Marie-Curie Fellow, in the field of microelectronics. Rebeca Gonzalez Suarez is a particle physicist; her research involves mostly analysis regarding top quarks and the Higgs boson. Simaolhoda Baymani is a computer scientist; she decided to join CERN after a career as a consultant in industries. Yisel Martinez Palenzuela is a PhD student; she works on the MEDICIS project, which is related to the production of radioactive beams.

All participants gathered at CERN during the day of their visit.

The feedback received by both “shadowers” and “shadowees” was extremely positive. During the end-of-the-day discussion, conducted by Gemma Collier of the Diversity Office, the girls stressed that despite this not being their first visit to CERN, the opportunity to connect directly with female scientists’ stories was truly unique. The discussion centred on the students’ expectations, fears and plans for their immediate future and how this day may have contributed to answering some of their questions. As it is well known, inspiration often plays a major role in science; “inspired” would indeed be the most precise term to describe the girls’ feeling at the end of the shadowing.


Tommaso Portaluri, PACMAN Marie-Curie project

Read the article written by Dr. Ian Collins, Physics Teacher at ECOLINT, here.