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”.

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.

Former Women @CERN

Corinna Martinella

Corinna’s backpack is full of dreams waiting to come true. The first of many? To finish writing her thesis. As soon as she defends it, she will close a chapter, a very special one.

Corinna first came to CERN in 2015 as a Technical Student. She had studied a Bachelor’s Degree in Biomedical Engineering at Politecnico di Milano, where she moved when she was nineteen. After that, as she wanted to focus on nuclear technologies, she decided to study a Master’s Degree in Nuclear Engineering. Shorty after finishing it, she came back to CERN, this time as a Doctoral Student in Physics.

For five years now, Corinna has been a CERNie. Somehow, she still is. Even if she is not physically working there, her PhD is carried out in a collaboration between CERN, the University of Jyväskylä (Finland) and ETH in Zurich, where Einstein and Mileva Marić also spent a chapter of their lives.

But Corinna already misses the people and, no doubt, the R1 which, every Friday, became the nerve center of CERN. It was a must-attend date, a holy place where the stress of the week was relieved by beers and good conversations (some of them with strangers, at least until then).

She fondly remembers playing volleyball there, lots of cheers! and a few farewell parties. Also, the CERN Photo Club sessions, where she learned to stop using the automatic mode. Corinna also joined the only women’s football team at CERN, Scrambled Leggs. It was not a winning team, but they enjoyed every game. Those moments will always be kept in her backpack.

In addition to growing a lot as a scientist, at CERN she became a person she did not imagine five years ago, but this did not come for free! Corinna found herself many times out of her comfort zone, facing situations that are not always as pleasant as we wish, but she did it and the feeling afterwards was very satisfying. That also makes us the person we are today.

She felt like a sponge absorbing lots of information from the people around her. Really smart people and women leaders who changed a lot her world view: unwittingly, they helped her to change and to design her own glasses with which to see reality.

Corinna is very passionate about what she does, as did Oriana Fallaci, the first female Italian war correspondent, world-renowned for her peculiar interviews. She used to say that wars were like madhouses, and those who were in them were their patients.

To Corinna, it is in the CERN’s purpose where beauty is hidden. Using science for peace, seeing how people from different cultures and religions (even from countries currently involved in armed conflicts) collaborate with the sole aim to discover what the universe is made of, and how it works. According to Fallaci’s simile, Corinna would be one of the madhouse’ psychiatrists.

People like her try to push the boundaries of the human knowledge farther and farther every day. She is sure that this is the miracle of research. In the words of Lise Meitner, the pioneering woman behind nuclear fission: “Science makes people reach selflessly for truth and objectivity; it teaches people to accept reality, with wonder and admiration, not to mention the deep awe and joy that the natural order of things brings to the true scientist”.

Corinna would love to use her knowledge and her technical skills for humanitarian purposes. She has always been interested in disarmament, specifically in nuclear disarmament. So, when she grows up, she would be happy actively working on this. That is why another one of the dreams she keeps in his backpack is to find, after her PhD, a postdoctoral project which will allow her to work on this topic.

Meanwhile? She wishes she had the time to travel around the world. Corinna, who was born in small town in the north of Italy close to the Swiss border, is a globetrotter, in whose mind there is something that has been going around for a long time: to take part in the Mongol Rally, a charity rally from Prague to Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. There is no set route. Nor is there a fixed deadline. It is the magic of the adventure, with its contingencies and surprises. If 2021 allows it, this will be another dream come true for Corinna.

As Francesco Guccini sang, “un orizzonte insegue un orizzonte; a un’autostrada, un’altra seguirà”. A dream will follow a dream, one goal will chase another one. Because “gli spazi sono fatti per andare”, and Corinna will find in them her freedom. “La sua libertà”.

Former Women @CERN

Beatriz del Valle Grande

During her last year of high school, Bea went to Durham (England) to improve her English during the summer. That experience completely changed her aspirations, and with them, the course of her life. Bea, who was born in Plasencia and grew up between that “Perla del Valle del Jerte” in the north of Extremadura and Malpica del Tajo in Toledo, realized that she wanted to live abroad.

She kept this in mind, and in her heart, for many years. After high school, she moved to Madrid to study aerospace engineering at the Polytechnic University of Madrid, and during her last course, she did an Erasmus at TU Delft, in the Netherlands, the country where Beatriz’s internship mutated from a six-month chance to a five-year work experience. Her much-desired life abroad had begun.

After working at Moog Bradford and at Huisman Equipment, Bea arrived to CERN, but it was not linearly planned: together with her boyfriend, who is from Mexico, they wanted to try their luck in another country, France, but due to visa issues, they ended up in Switzerland. Bea got a fellowship in 2016, and she was a CERNie for three years, the person responsible for managing and executing a project that irradiated insulation materials at low temperature to characterize them to be used in superconducting magnets.

Her colleagues are what she misses most. Also her Friday zumba teacher, Rachel, and the people from the Women in Technology Mentoring Programme, where she met her mentor, who is now a close friend. Bea was always surrounded by good vibes. She was also going to a drama course at the Université Populaire of Geneva Canton, and she loved reading in the tram on her way there.

CERN gave her the opportunity to meet people from other countries, with very different cultures and ways of thinking, something that expands anyone’s. Besides a problem-solver, Bea is a cheerful and curious woman, always looking for new things, which is why she enjoyed her stay at CERN, a place that she thinks is unique for what is done in it, for the people who daily shape it.

Bea was clear that she wanted to continue in this region because she loves nature. So, after CERN, she started looking for a job around here, and it was in the middle of the Coronavirus lockdown that she got it: she works now as a quality engineer in a space company in Nyon, 35 km from Geneva, also bathed by the Lemán.

She does not want to know anything about the future. Life has shown her that no matter how much you dream, there are other trains that will pass in front of you. As John Lennon said, and his father always reminded her, “life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans”. Bea simply prefers to go with the flow.

Former Women @CERN

Mercedes Rebollo

From Fregenal, a small village located in Extremadura (Spain), Mercedes swapped the small hills and ravines of Sierra Morena for a place nearby the highest mountain range in Europe. She also changed the short walking distances of Seville for the daily bike rides from Ferney-Voltaire, where she used to live, to CERN.

On her way to CERN, where Mercedes has been working until August 2019, she had to cross large fields that most of the time were full of Milka cows. But, without a doubt, it is another kind of animal, the one that she misses the most from that time. Those Aristotelian zoon politikón that surrounded her. Mercedes had the chance to work with a very nice team, to know lots of women leaders and to learn from the people she met. But she also misses those individuals that she met outside the CERN bubble.

It was around September 2017, at the beginning of her days as a CERNie, when Mercedes and some friends of her decided to set up a woman football team. By that time, just a rugby female team existed, so they shaped a football one, which today is called Scrambleg Leggs.

Besides football, she plays the keyboard. Mercedes decided to buy one so that she could keep practicing and her piano notions did not get oxidized. This engineer never stopped being in touch with arts and humanities. Reading Carlos Ruiz Zafón and fantastic literature, painting, writing and playing music have always come along with her.

CERN changed Mercedes at many levels. Becoming a CERNie is a very nice time to leave shyness and prejudices behind. She worked there as a Quality Assurance and Asset Management Engineer, and she was a one-woman band CERNie. A multitask professional. To her, CERN was her first experience abroad. It was also the first time she got in touch with other languages. Now, she is able to dream in Spanish, English, French and Italian.

It is in life after CERN, when you realize all the big changes that you experimented there. It happens once you come back to your place. Her experience at CERN made her think that she is able to do more things than she thought before. You get more ambitious, but in the good sense of the word.

With 27 years, Mercedes is studying her second master. The first one was a Masters in Industrial Engineering, in Sevilla, where she moved in 2011 to study her university degree. The current one is a Masters in “Energy efficiency industry, audit and building certification” because, in the short-term future, she would like to be part of projects related to the energy efficiency and environment protection.

Last Christmas, Mercedes went into an entrepreneurship adventure together with three friends. She is a restless woman. She does not stop.

In The shadow of wind, Zafón wrote that: “El destino no hace visitas a domicilio, hay que ir a por él”. And, for sure, Mercedes is constantly heading for it.

Former Women @CERN

Paula Martínez Urios

Work in progress. This could be Paula’s current status. This could be anyone’s current status. The people that surround her, the ones that she admires and every new experience that gets her out of her comfort zone are still making Paula the person that she will be tomorrow. Today, she is the baggage of the past that was packed on the basis of some ethical principles that remained unchanged.

Originally from Madrid, Paula is now a CERNie living in Geneva. She studied the Hydraulics track of Civil Engineering in the Spanish capital and, during the 4th course, she did an Erasmus in Istanbul (Turkey). 10 months out of 27 years could seem a tiny proportion, but it is not just a matter of quantity.

Paula talks about Istanbul like a grandmother talks about her grandchildren. Same illusion, same affection. She still has the feeling that she did not discover even one percent of what the city had to give. Although Istanbul was not the first option on her Erasmus list, the Turkish city embraced her very warmly. For Paula, it was similar enough to Spain to not miss it, and different enough to surprise her every day. She never felt a foreigner there. She could taste the Mediterranean culture, the one that Serrat used to sing about.

Is the re-encounter already planned? Paula wonders very often whether she should go back, but then she remembers Sabina singing, “al lugar donde has sido feliz no debieras tratar de volver”. Irremediably, Istanbul will always keep a piece of Paula. She lost part of her scales there.

Day after day, she bumped into beauty: in its sunsets over the mosques, in the blues of the Bosphorus and in the song of the seagulls. For Paula, beauty is that characteristic of something, and by something it is really anything, that you can observe forever. And observing means if it is a song to listen to it, if it is nature to look at it, if it is a person to just be with that person. No rush with beauty.

Paula is leaving CERN next July and she will start a double master’s degree in Sustainable Energy Systems in Sweden and the Netherlands, after spending a few weeks in Madrid, where music festivals and concerts will be waiting for her, together with that “buen rollo” that does not have a literal translation outside southern Europe.

She lets herself go a bit, like the tide. She may do it after her master studies: to guide herself by intuition, which has worked so far. Because, as Xoel López would sing, “la vida siempre tiene algo preparado”.

Paula dreams of continuing looking for a path, a path that makes her happy because it is not always easy to make choices and to give direction to our lives. She always keeps in mind something that her father told her when she was a kid: “lo perfecto es enemigo de lo bueno”. And perfection is also a happiness’ enemy. Sometimes, it is even better to live a bit below perfection. Sometimes, an approximation is good enough.

Although you never feel fully ready to leave, by mid-summer, Paula will say goodbye to CERN, that world with its own microclimate and people that haven been shaping her for the past three years. Same path, different surroundings.

Like a piece of Paula stayed forever in Istanbul, another piece of her will always remain at CERN. Another particular place where she lost her scales.

Former Women @CERN

Elisa García-Tabarés

When Elisa first met CERN, she was around one year old. She was born in a scientist family: her grandfather was a pharmacist and her father works as a physicist. He had the opportunity to come to CERN and Elisa’s family moved from Madrid to Ferney-Voltaire.

Now, 32 years later, she is the one working at CERN, in the Mechanical and Material Engineering group, surrounded by a small big beauty. What Elisa sees and discovers under her microscope amazed her daily. She lives in Saint-Genis-Pouilly with her husband, Luis, who is also working at CERN, and with their daughter, Eli.

It has been almost 5 years since Elisa started working at CERN. 21st May 2015, the day of her PhD defense, while she was having breakfast, Luis, who at that time was just boyfriend, called her: “I have been admitted at CERN”. Elisa defended her PhD embraced by these good news, and having in mind that they were getting married in three months.

It was September 2015 when they arrived here, just after their honeymoon. It was in the middle of it, when Elisa did an interview and got a call from CERN to start as a Project Associate. After two years of PJAS, she got a Fellow in a different group, department and section. It was similar to what she did after her PhD in Solar Energies, when she decided to change completely her field and focus on the materials.

There is another special match between CERN and Elisa’s life story. In 2008, while she was studying her degree in Material Science and Engineering, she had the opportunity to come here for three months to do the final project of her degree. CERN means a lot to Elisa. It hosts a lot of her memories.

She believes that she is who she is thanks to her family, thanks to her father and her mother, who taught her a very valuable proverb: “guarda el orden y el orden te guardará”. Being orderly is one of Elisa’s virtues. She remembers how much this proverb has helped her to find the pillars of her personality.

When she dreams about herself, she imagines a life with her family, in a quiet neighbourhood, if possible, in Madrid, working at University. Also, visiting Galicia, her husband’s terriña, frequently and, making some room for Valencia, where a warmer climate awaits them.

Elisa knows where she wants to go, but she does not run. She prefers to keep the order, because as the Madrid-born poet, Gloria Fuertes, wrote: el que sabe dónde va, / va despacio, / para paladear, / el “ir llegando”. 

It is nice to think that “Little Eli”, who is now the same age that Elisa had when she was living around CERN, and who is also surrounded by scientific relatives, will end up having a CERNie experience.

It is nice to think that coincidences will never have an end.

Former Women @CERN

Paula Álvarez López

Almost for two years, Paula, a restless and curious woman from Gijón, worked at CERN, that laboratory that keeps beauty hidden tens of meters underground. It was one the primal incorporations of HiLumi, and she was part of its technical project management department.

This was Paula’s first work experience. She had studied a degree in Engineering of Industrial Technologies at the University of Oviedo (Spain), studying the last year in Berlin (Germany), with an Erasmus scholarship. It was also where she began to find her path because, for her, CERN is a fantastic place to create your own adventure. Now, from Boston (USA), where she has been almost a couple of years, Paula remembers with special affection the two hobbies that accompanied her in Geneva: basketball and classical music.

As during her childhood and adolescence she lived with the court and baggy equipment, as soon as she arrived to CERN, she joined a basketball team, the Meyrin Basket, where she spent the first trainings and games lost in translation. Along with this sport, classical music. Paula, who played viola at a professional level since she was a little girl, joined l’Orchestre des Nations, where different nationalities and families of instruments were mixed.

Basketball gave her, in addition to triples and DOMS, a formidable level of French. Music, in addition to concerts and harmony, brought her a rhythmic love. In the orchestra, Paula met Matt, her current fiancé, who at that time was also doing her PhD at CERN.

In such a special place, where she believes that there are amazing opportunities to look for and to pursue, Paula realized that she wanted to direct her career towards management. Along with her mentor, a great friend and ally, she set her future plans and professional goals.

That is why, after her time at CERN, Paula flew to Madrid, where she worked for two years at McKinsey & Company, an American consultancy firm, of which, at the end of this summer, she will again be part. This time, from across the pond. To join her more technical profile with the field of management, Paula did a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Harvard, which she has just successfully completed.

From that shore of the Atlantic, Paula dreams of dedicating her training, time and effort to sustainability. She believes that the great problem in our society is that we are taking over the world we live in, so she would love to reverse the situation by taking advantage of emerging technologies. This summer, before rejoining as a strategy consultant at McKinsey & Company, she is collaborating with Peace of Meat, a Belgian startup that, like Paula, is committed to feed the world differently, while protecting the environment.

Paula will continue to contribute grains and grains of sand, so that we have a healthier world. She will keep shaping her career and composing her life with sheet music for violin and viola. And she will not forget her experience as a CERNie, which will always sound like Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5.