Former Women @CERN WIT Photo Session

Ana Ventura

Everything started on the 21st of October of 1994 in Catalonia, land of castellers, calçots and panellets. Land of protests, roses and culture.

Ana was born and raised in El Prat de Llobregat, a small village near Barcelona. It was on the shores of the Mediterranean, walking along the delta of the Riu Llobregat or around els carabiners, that she traced her dream: to work at CERN. And so began the (good) journey that continues to this day.

She risked because she wanted something new to come*, and she enrolled in physics at the Universitat de Barcelona, to the beat of Lágrimas de Sangre (LDS), who relate by singing some of the steps of Ana’s journey.

In her last year, she did an internship at CERN, in the Solid State Detectors Group and, for six months, she studied the effect of radiation damage in silicon detectors. She then returned to Barcelona to defend her degree’s thesis and began another internship at ALBA synchrotron, a small accelerator near the Catalan capital.

Ana knew that, as LDS sing, crowning the peak is tough, and that a good journey never ends up nearby*. It was also clear to her that she wanted to do a PhD, and to do so, she first had to do a master’s degree, which she decided to do abroad. Closer to her dream.

In September 2018, Ana became a master’s student in particle physics at the University of Geneva and, since she did not lose sight of her target, since spring 2019 she has been working at CERN, within the same group that knew her as an intern.  Her life began to take shape between the Jura and the Salève.

The mountains are Ana’s habitat. Shelter and therapy. Because Ana finds happiness when she reaches the top, when she finishes a hard climbing route or when she solves a problem that has given her several headaches. But getting there sometimes means going through storms.

When tempers and forces falter, what motivates you is the reason you decided to start and the small bigg achievements you already carry on your shoulders. Because, there are rewards that balance it out and friends encourage you*.

In those moments, your people are the greatest support, and Ana, who is very generous, has always been well surrounded. That is happiness for her: sharing. To share hikes, books, recipes, football trainings and her knowledge about physics.

That is why, whenever the opportunity arises, Ana dedicates her time and energy to outreach activities. She loves talking about physics to everyone, but especially to students, because not long ago she was like them and dreamed of becoming a CERNie. Now, she enjoys telling them that it is possible.

And this is in line with Ana’s journey, because when she grows up she would like to be a mentor. To be able to give others the opportunity to start a career in science like others gave her. And she would also like to inspire women to study physics.

Ana Ventura is already a reference for young girls who are passionate about learning more about nature, radioactivity or antimatter. Who knows if in a long time (or not so long), her name and her work will reach as high as those of Mar Capeáns, Emmy Noether or Marie Curie.

Besides being a great scientist, Ana will be a good climber and mountaineer. And although she still has many peaks to crown, she has just taken another important step in the direction of her dreams, as she is about to start her PhD at DESY (Hamburg).

As LDS sing, from each end comes a necessary beginning* And, in this case, not only necessary but also desired. Like everything Ana has experienced since, from her Prat, she decided to study physics.

PS. All * belong to the lyrics of the song, Buen viaje, by LDS. Its translation in order of appearance:

  • “Arriesgo porque quiero que algo nuevo venga”.
  • “Sé que coronar la cumbre cuesta, y que un buen viaje nunca acaba cerca”.
  • “Hay recompensas que al llegar lo equilibran”, “y los amigos te animan”.
  • “De cada fin nace un principio necesario”.
Former Women @CERN WIT Photo Session

Lucía Gallego

The Madrid of Manuela Malasaña and Clara Campoamor. The one with Cortylandia and the bocatas de calamares. The Madrid in which Lucía, an experimental physicist specialized in particle detector development, was born and raised.

There she studied a degree in fundamental physics and a master’s degree in biomedical physics. In 2013, as a good tightrope walker, she moved to Nantes (France) to do her PhD, and after four years of le crachin Nantais she became a CERNie.

Lucía works as a Project Associate with the Institut de Radiophysique from the CHUV, located in Lausanne (Switzerland). She is part of a women’s section: 7 – 3 for women. Lucía, who plays as goalkeeper for Scrambled Leggs, CERN official women’s football team, is delighted to see that more and more women are becoming acknowledged in science.

She is passionate about medical physics. That is why, when she grows up, she would like to continue working in this field to be able to develop new devices that can help people improve their quality of life. Also, to show others the scope of science beyond books and formulas.

Because there are realities that escape formulas. Like the happiness of Sunday mornings, when haste does not attack and coffee can be taken in bed. Like an ordinary evening surrounded by loved ones, a good racion de croquetas and a very cold beer.

Lucía’s formula is made of small achievements. Among them, the first time she left home to start a new adventure in a foreign country, getting her PhD, creating her small international family, keeping her childhood friends despite the distance and pursuing her personal and professional dreams.

But it is also made up of little pieces from the past: the family, the playtime with her nephew, the sore of belly and cheeks from laughing with friends, travelling and the music festivals.

At the end of the year (and, what a year!) Lucía will leave CERN. She will start working full time at the CHUV. As Aslándticos sing, she will continue to walk the tightrope, the one that, day by day, she masters.

Because as Clara Campoamor said, from her exile in Lausanne, “freedom is learned by exercising it”.

Meta Women @CERN

Ana Suja

From time to time, aún arde Madrid en su memoria, as Porretas would sing. Madrid, the capital of the cats and the lighted nights, saw Ana born, enjoyed her teenage years and grew up as a woman.

There she studied engineering in telecommunication technologies and services at the Universidad Politécnica. Also a master’s degree in the same field of expertise, during which she did an Erasmus in Copenhagen, where she remembers being very happy. It was a year full of hygge people and moments. An endless number of unforgettable experiences that she lived accompanied by a bike.

Ana has been living in Geneva for almost two years now. It was a bit of an unusual relationship with CERN that brought her here: she is the Spanish Industrial Liaison Officer (ILO) at CERN. But, what is an ILO? What is their day-to-day life like?

As CERN has many Member States contributing to its budget, CERN tries to repay these contributions in a proportionate manner through different mechanisms, such as contracts with their industries. “We are the link between our country’s industry and CERN’s needs. What we try to do is to get the people at CERN to know the companies in our local regions, what they can do, their capabilities… We facilitate those exchanges”, explains Ana.

As an ILO, she has many meetings at CERN, which means going from one building to another. In pre-pandemic times, when this was possible, Ana used to move around on her faithful bicycle companion. “It was a pleasure, with the views in this area, the mountains, the lake…”.

The nature and the possibility of cycling everywhere is, without a doubt, what she would take with her to Madrid, which is also the capital of traffic jams. But, in addition, it is the capital of missing because it has an enviable social and cultural life. “There are always people, happy people, in the streets, even if it is three o’clock  in the morning”. Ana is a little lacking in that non-stop movida.

When she was a child and asked her parents how to do something (“should I colour this green or blue?”), they always told her, follow your instinct. “To me, that did not sound helpful at all because they were not giving me the solution. But, as I grew up, I realized how that response empowered me to make decisions or deal with difficult situations. It is something I remember very often”.

And that is what Ana will continue to do, to follow her instinct, to trust herself. Here, in Madrid or in any other city, but always close to a bike and higgy people.

Women @CERN

Chiara Bracco

Being a physicist in the 21st century is not bad at all. Especially if you work at CERN. This is the case with Chiara, who became a CERNie 15 years ago.

She is delighted with the place and time she is in, but, if it were possible, she would be interested in spending some time in the past when everything was still undiscovered. Also because at that time a physicist was involved in a whole experiment, learning from A to Z about a project, not just being a small part of it, and working glued to a computer.

Chiara, who was born in Biella, a small village in northern Italy, studied physics at the Università degli Studi di Milano. After her master’s thesis on applied superconductivity, she landed at CERN to do her PhD, which completely changed her career path: from superconductivity to accelerator physics.

Her first five years as a CERNie were in the collimation team. Then she moved to the accelerator beam transfer group, where she is still now. She is also responsible for WP14 of the HL-LHC project, but project management is not her favorite piece of work.

What Chiara really likes is the study part, the supervision and the collaboration. She enjoys working with the different engineers and other physicists. “Essentially, I like what I can learn from, and I do it in exchanges with my colleagues and also with my students”.

For Chiara, beauty is connected to nature. “Nature in general and, especially, everything that is enormous, such as mountains, icebergs, oceans…”. And nature is linked to her dreams as she would love to be a National Geographic photographer. To spend her time in the middle of nowhere, trying to take the best picture of an animal doing something special, unexpected.

In her novel, La strada che va in città, the Italian writer and activist, Natalia Ginzburg, wrote that “memory is loving and is never casual. It is rooted in our own lives and that is why its choice is never casual, but always passionate and imperative”. Chiara agrees partially because she still has hope that we have something completely random in our lives.

“I like to think that we have a little bit of serendipity that is taking us somewhere that is not yet defined”. Because there are still many places waiting to be discovered. And many questions looking forward to having an answer.

Because, after all, it is not so bad to be a physicist these days.

Women @CERN

Eva Gousiou

All Eva’s summers have the taste of an island in the Aegean Sea. Both her childhood and grown-up summers take place in Lesbos, the homeland of the archaic Greek poet, Sappho. But Eva, an electronics engineer focused on data transmission technologies, was born on the other shore of the Aegean.

Athens saw her grow. She studied information and communications technologies at its university, which was founded in 1837. Entering the workforce right after her studies was very important for Eva, who began working as a Seagate Technology intern in a large hard drives manufacturing plant in Thailand.

Later, she returned to Athens, where the cold coffees with friends last forever, and during which one can talk about everything and nothing. Almost like the Greek philosophers did a few centuries ago. But Eva still desired to explore the world, and so she became a CERNie.

She still remembers her beginning because it was just before the first start-up of the LHC. “We were working for the commissioning of the cryogenic instrumentation and it was a very hectic period”. Eva remembers it as a cocktail of emotions: hopes, anticipation, stress, motivation… “We were tired, but unstoppable”, she ensures.

She also fondly recalls a more recent phase. “After many years on electronics development, my team and I feel it would be valuable to go to the other side and become a user”. Eva is now a one-year detachment on the PSB-island and enjoys experiencing the operational side of what they have been developing. “Going to the CERN Control Centre (CCC), the place where everything happens, and working on beam operations there feels as exciting as those first years”, says Eva with emocion.

She is also currently working on data visualization, surrounded by graphics that, in addition to creating understanding and revealing relationships, are beautiful. She also finds beauty in the way  Woody Allen and Almodóvar paint their favourite cities, and it is the way they depict women friendships that she finds inspiring.

Eva dreams of more inclusive technologies. “Diversity of people means different approaches, explanations, ways of coding… I feel that this field, which is male-dominated, is losing a lot by excluding people”, says Eva, who is sometimes the only female in the room, and who is looking forward to having more female colleagues to work with.

She would also like to see more of what is called the democratization of the domain. Increasing the accessibility to electronic engineering, which will come from more open source hardware. But, how? “If we provide high-quality free and open source tools and the right libraries, as we have seen happen in software, there will be exponential development”.

And, as if that were not enough, she also wants more conscious developments that lead to greater modularity and reusability. “I think that instead of throwing away and replacing our devices, we could repair more often”, she states. “I hope that development policies will soon be more aware of what has a huge toll on the environment”.

Beyond her adventures at work, Eva enjoys her friendships, to which she always carves time for, and, above all, her three boys, who are her endless source of energy and support. Her particular island. The reason why home is here now.

Eva enjoys every day because, as the Greek poet Constantino Cavafis wrote in Ithaca, “hope your road is a long one / May there be many summer mornings when, / with what pleasure, what joy, / you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time”.

Women @CERN

Nuria Valverde

We could ask “ondas do mar de Vigo” when was the last time they saw our friend Nuria, a welding engineer currently working at CERN.

Nuria was born in the proletarian city of Vigo, located in the Galician Rias Baixas. She grew up with maritime sounds in the background: first, with the Atlantic Ocean and then, with the Cantabrian Sea. After having studied mechanical engineering at the University of Oviedo, Nuria began working in Gijón, where she also studied welding engineering.

She became a CERNie in January 2011 She worked here for five years as a project engineer following the internal manufacturing of superconducting cavities, controlling the quality of subcontracted parts and qualifying welders. In 2016, she left CERN to move to ITER, in southern France, for a year. Later, she returned to CERN.

Since then Nuria enjoys her multi-layered work. She has a wide overview of the High Luminosity LHC Project, of which she is a part. From the pieces’ fabrication, which is her favourite, to how the welding is going. She can also follow other activities such as testing or radio frequency, besides other more normal project activities, such as planning and budgeting. It is very enriching for her to get to know the different pieces that make up the project: the many Lego blocks that Hilumi is built with.

On her return to CERN, Nuria also came back to the Alps’ foot. In the nature of this area, sometimes French, sometimes Swiss, she meets beauty. It reminds her to love because, as she believes, “we can find beauty when we love something”. That is why some will find it in a sunset, others in a baby’s smile, and others even by the sea.

Although we are living problems, as the Spanish Philosopher María Zambrano said, knowing what will happen every day would be very boring. Nuria likes that unexpected side of life. She is not a big dreamer: it is enough to enjoy the day to day, to do things that fill you up and to try to be as happy as possible in any circumstance. But maybe, if she had to dream big, she would do it with her own house in Spain in front of the beach, to be able to greet the sea in the mornings.

For now, Nuria will continue to see, in addition to the different HL-LHC project’s steps, the seasons of this peculiar area and their colours: from the white of the snow that overhangs Mont Blanc, to the orange and yellow tones of an autumn on the Jura hill.

Former Women @CERN

Carmen Morodo Testa

Beauty not only has its own focus, but also its moment in time. Its here and now. This is how Carmen, a Senior Business Analyst working at the ESA Estates and Facilities Management Department, perceives beauty.

“It is the result of our stubborn human determination to push the limits of the possible”, she ensures. Beauty as a product of our curiosity, the same one that led Carmen to join CERN in 1999.

Her time as a CERNie coincided with the LHC construction. Carmen worked for about 6 years as a telecommunication engineer in the Monitoring and Supervision Group and in the Cooling and Ventilation Group of the Technical Support Department, contributing to the supervision of the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator construction.

She is from Barcelona, where Gothic and Gaudí’s architecture dance in tandem, around many tourists. It was there that she studied a Master’s Degree in Telecommunications Engineering at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC).

There, too, her career started in the domain of industrial automation, but it was at CERN that she had her first experience in an international organisation primarily devoted to science and technology. A unique place to dare to ask questions. A place to be curious.

In 2005, Carmen decided to cross to the other bank of her professional sea. She continued her career at ESA, where until recently she has been Space Transportation Infrastructure Office Manager and a member of the Ariane 6 Launch Base Project.

To her, ESA is connected to the international cooperation put at the service of space research and technologies in Europe, in the same way that CERN is linked to the international cooperation put at the service of fundamental physics scientific research. No matter where, Carmen has always been clear about her work philosophy: to bring relevance and meaningfulness.

Since she was a kid, she has always been a great reader. She particularly likes History and political philosophy books. To her, humanities are intrinsic to everyone (just look at their name!). We grow with them, we live with them.

Rachel Carson, an American marine biologist who was one of the pioneer to create environmental awareness, wrote in Silent Spring (1962) that “the more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction”.

Like Carson, Carmen is a nature lover, convinced that our big challenge is to save the planet and its biodiversity. That is why when she grows up she would like to work for the benefit of environmental and human-rights protection, always having time to enjoy hiking, surrounded by her loved ones.

And that is that “those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts”. And Carmen always contemplates it, at every here and now.

Former Women @CERN

Jara Rodríguez Alonso

“On my feet I wear two shoes for dancing, dancing to be free”. To the beat of Ska Jazz, Jara, a 24-year-old globetrotter, turns up the volume of Two Shoes, the song that she would recommend to anyone. Also on her feet, there is a pair of shoes that keep dancing.

Jara is the eldest of three siblings. She grew up in La Fresneda, a residential complex close to Oviedo, the capital city of one of the greenest regions in Spain: Asturias, patria querida.

Her interests range from nature to robotics, from climate change to new technologies. Jara studied a Bachelor of Science in Electronics and Automation Engineering. The two first years in Gijón (Asturias), the third one in Kraków (Poland) and the fourth one in Tampa (Florida). Now, she lives in Geneva, surrounded by friends employed by banks and international organization such as UN and CERN.

Since October 2018, she is working at CERN, specifically in HiLumi LHC and, more specifically in QUACO, a research project focused on the development of very peculiar magnets. Although in her team, everyone does a bit of everything, Jara is in charge of monitoring the production of those magnets, which two companies, one from France and the other from Spain, are building.

In the “pool of missing”, Jara would mark 1 to her father’s and her grandmother’s food, and also to the sea, that same sea that Rosalía de Castro asked to see from her bed shortly before she died. The Galician poet, a neighbor of Jara’s terrina, wrote: “it is fortunate the one who dies dreaming. Unfortunate the one who lives without dreaming”.

Jara’s curls dream short term. If she closes her autumn eyes, she imagines herself being part of a multicultural company, working together with people from various geographies with the aim of improving the lives of many others. Now, she is studying a master’s degree in Innovation and Digital Transformation, which focuses on the economic side, on business. Little by little, without stopping her shoes’ dance.

Jara may not be very good at painting, but she is not a disaster either. She is an optimistic woman who, even in dark and nebulous situations, she is able to see the good side, the one that only shines for a few. She bathes in stoic rivers while she remembers that “no hay mal que por bien no venga”.

Perhaps, she will become a successful business woman or she will toast with sidrina, somewhere in Europe, to celebrate great future advances in climate change. Perhaps, she will end up in a sports company, collaborating in improving the equipment and, therefore, the athletic performance. Perhaps not.

Jara hugs short-term dreams because she prefers not to make plans in that distant tomorrow and to continue here, dancing free with her same shoes.

Women @CERN

Noemí Carabán Gonzalez

In 1979, one of the most important science-fiction films, Alien, was released. It was in that year that Noemí, a videographer and photographer at CERN, was born. Sometimes she feels a bit like an alien, but who does not? Who can be considered normal? Who among us does not belong to the outsider category?

In 2012, months before the world ended, the God Particle AKA the Higgs boson was discovered at CERN, which in media terms meant a big peak of attention. At that time, Noemí was living in Czech Republic, and she was going through the HR process to get this peculiar job.

Her transformation into a CERNie coincided with the Long Shutdown 1, when the CERN accelerator complex was stopped for almost two years to get a technical facelift. That gave her the opportunity to record everywhere along the accelerator chain, including the LHC and all the experiments. Watching those images in lots of different countries’ news made her feel like she was from another planet.

CERN has a public image repository which thanks to Women In Technology (WIT), a community that promotes equality, has recently been enlarged with pictures of women scientists. Noemí works together with WIT, creating audiovisual content to make their role known. Also, portraying those women in their workplaces. “The power of representation should not be underestimated. It is really important to see them”, remarks Noemí.

If beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, Noemí lives surrounded by it. As a CERNie she has witnessed very special moments, like that time, at CMS, when a worker with the helmet and the safety equipment was doing a sort of tai chi, 100 metres below ground. Very special moments to be recorded out of one’s memory.

After almost eight long and short years, at the end of this 2020 (that has been quite an alien year), her contract ends. Noemí has already assumed that finding a place like CERN, a scenario where the extraordinary breathes, borders on the impossible. But, as she says, “everything has its moment”. A film, a book, a song or a job.

She would like to continue creating audiovisual content and showing things that are there, in front of us, and that sometimes we do not see. She loves to pick up the exceptional of people, places and things, because she is convinced that we have more to learn from things that are extraordinary than from those we already know.

Wherever she goes, she will maintain her cultural references, change her favourites from time to time, and flatter the difference, and its need in these times.

She will zoom in this narrow normality.

Meta Women @CERN

Noelia Sánchez

Etymologically speaking, Noelia teaches the science of life. She has been a biology and geology high school teacher for almost 15 years. Before that, she did her Ph.D. in immunology at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, in early 2005.

Noelia grew up with Carl Sagan’s personal voyage, Cosmos. This TV series left her fascinated by the universe, and our place in it. That passion for science has accompanied her ever since.

Because it is all connected, and because physics and biology are a match, last summer, Noelia had the great opportunity to be part of the CERN Spanish National Teacher Programme. “It is a gift for teachers”, assures Noelia, while she wishes that all major research centers would carry out similar projects.

Noelia talks about this experience like a little girl talks about her birthday presents. The fantasy lasted only one week, but at the end of it, she could understand what people do at CERN and why it is so important, not only for the scientific community, but for us, for society.

Apart from some ideas and activities, the most important learning that Noelia brought from CERN to her students of the IES San Agustín de Guadalix (Madrid, Spain) was the need to make science more attractive and closer to them. On her return, she proposed students in their final year of secondary school to have an extra hour with lab and activities.

It was something completely voluntary because Noelia was aware that not everybody is attracted by science (not everybody has seen Cosmos). But she ended up with a tiny group of five committed teenagers, who did not miss a single lesson. Together they also ventured into the world of podcasting. For Noelia, this has been the most relaxing experience with students.

She always says to them that science is about understanding, not memorizing. They tend to memorize information, but that is far from being a meaningful learning. It hardly solidifies, and on shaky ground nothing can be built.

We are all surrounded by science and especially young people, who have been born and raised in an increasingly technological society. They need science. Noelia thinks that a minimum of scientific culture is essential At least a basic understanding of the subject, a scaffold to create a better knowledge in case we would like to go deeper into specific concepts.

If she looks to the future, she dreams of a better career for Spanish teachers, based on continuous training and in the pursuit of excellence. Also, of a more global learning approach for students and of a reduction of the “sea levels”, since teachers and students are overwhelmed with all the contents they have to teach or learn in about nine months.

Who speaks for Earth? wondered Sagan in his series’ final episode. People like Noelia, capable of transmitting her love for science to her students. A “star stuff” passionately teaching to other “star stuff”.