On 11 February, we celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. To celebrate diversity and representation in STEM-related fields, we asked six female scientists from CERN to share their stories. They shared what a typical day looks like, what they enjoy most in their profession and what is interesting in their careers.
Cristina Castro Sequeiro, vacuum engineer
Cristina is a Spanish vacuum engineer in the vacuum, surfaces and coatings group at CERN. She is working on the design and integration of different vacuum systems designed for the upcoming upgrade of CERN’s flagship project, the High-Luminosity Large Hadron Collider (HL-LHC).
"My daily work consists mainly of vacuum simulations. Currently, I'm also following the commissioning of the beam gas curtain monitor into the LHC. I like the fact that I am participating in different stages of these projects, from simulations to integration, and working with people from different teams, which gives me a nice overview of all the work involved.”
Dalila Salamani, data scientist
Dalila is a data scientist from Algeria working in the software development for experiments group, which develops and maintains the common scientific software for CERN's physics experiments. Her specialty is to develop machine-learning approaches for fast simulation in Geant4.
“I am deeply passionate about my work, which involves taking data that describes how high-energy physics detectors work and building machine-learning models that mimic their functioning. I find it fascinating to work on unique problems that involve big and complex data sets, where the doors to creativity and innovation are always open!”
Dalila’s passion for science started when she received her first telescope from her parents, as well as “when I realised the infinite possibilities offered by the binary world”.
Chilufya Mwewa, particle physicist
Chilufya is a Zambian particle physicist. She studied physics and obtained a postgraduate diploma in mathematical sciences. In 2017, she received a PhD grant that allowed her to study two same-charge W bosons using data collected by the ATLAS experiment.
Between family and physics, Chilufya’s days start with caring for her two children and the daily operation of the ATLAS detector’s liquid argon calorimeter (LAr). Chilufya is also working on maintaining and developing LAr software.
“When I get to my office, it’s to write/debug code to analyse data collected by the ATLAS detector. From this data, I look for events with two same-charge W bosons. These events are very rare in the Standard Model, so being able to observe them and measure their cross-section helps to further validate it. In addition, I write and debug codes to simulate data from a potential next-generation collider.”
Stefania Maria Beolè, particle physicist
Stefania is an Italian professor of experimental physics at Università degli Studi di Torino. She has been at CERN since 1995, involved in the development and construction of silicon detectors for both the NA50 and ALICE experiments. Since 2020, she has also been the project leader of the Inner Tracking System (ITS) of the ALICE experiment.
Between CERN and Torino, Stefania says, “In all workplaces, I try to spend some time in the laboratory each day. I appreciate doing some technical work, especially with my students. We have test set-ups to characterise detectors with laser beams and radioactive sources… working with them makes me feel as young and enthusiastic as a PhD student.”
For Stefania, the most fun happens in the control room, waiting for the beam to arrive, while "spending time with colleagues and sharing the excitement of potential achievements".
Reham Aly, particle physicist
Reham Aly is an Egyptian post-doc fellow at CERN and INFN, as well as a lecturer at Helwan University in Egypt. Working in data analysis, Reham’s research is focused on dark matter particles and uses data from the CMS experiment. She is also responsible for the irradiation tests for fast gaseous detectors that certifies their operation for the next 15 years.
A typical day at CERN for Reham is spent in three places: her office, the lab and the gamma irradiation facility.
Reham’s passion for science started “when I was in kindergarten, I planted beans on a cotton pad and took care to water it everyday until it grew. I was so happy when the plant grew, after being patient, waiting for its growth and watching it everyday.”
Jenny Lunde, early-career physicist
Jenny is an early-career physicist from Norway, pursuing an integrated Master’s degree in physics. She is currently working on software development for the CMS experiment, and she spends most of her days programming in Python.
For Jenny, CERN is a “great place [to work] for an early-career scientist, as you get to interact with scientists from universities from all over the world and explore many opportunities for your future studies. People at CERN have very varied backgrounds, and they are all needed to make the experiments work.”
“It is exciting to be part of one of the largest international science experiments. Everyone does a different job and together we can discover new things about the fundamental structure of the Universe.”