Do not let the opportunity to apply for a CERN position pass you by.
Hi Roberta, tell us a little about yourself and how you came to CERN
I followed what the majority would define an “eclectic” or “non-standard” path. I took my bachelor in Physics in Italy, my home country, at the University of L’Aquila. When I was enrolled there, I heard about CERN a lot, mostly for the project CNGS and the OPERA and ICARUS detectors, since L’Aquila is very close to the Gran Sasso National Laboratory and many people in the physics faculty were collaborating in the project.
I never thought I would have ended up in CERN myself, because I always associated it with particle physics only, and I was more into fluid dynamics and meteorology studies. Of course, ultimately time will prove me very wrong.
At the end of my bachelor studies, I was stuck on one exam; I simply could not pass it and felt the urge of getting out. After sending a few spontaneous applications, I got a job as summer intern at the Finnish Meteorological Institute. I moved to Helsinki for 2 months, to discover what working as data analyst in the climate-modelling department meant, came back, passed the last exam and defended my bachelor.
I enjoyed my stint abroad; despite the difficulties of being alone and far from home, I left Italy again to go back to Helsinki. This time, I was thinking about what to do next, and, as all the best things in life, the answer came in the most unexpected way, and things went very fast afterwards.
A colleague of mine told me about a Master that combined Nuclear Engineering and Management while studying in two different European countries. I applied, was selected and spent my 1st year in Barcelona and my 2nd in Grenoble. There, I was hired by CEA for my internship and I was offered a temporary contract right afterwards the master defence to build a simulator for the cryogenic system of the tokamak JT-60SA.
I had a very interesting journey starting with physics and fluid dynamics, going through nuclear engineering and thermal-hydraulics, and landing in cryogenics. Now I am a fellow in the Cryogenic Group at CERN.
What do you do at CERN today?
I carry out dynamic simulations with a focus on preventive diagnostics. I build up models, which run in parallel with the real installations. If they behave the same, everything is working properly, if there is a deviation it means that some faulty behaviour is developing and some action has to be taken.
I also take part in outreach activities, because I love to challenge myself by explaining science to people who do not have a technical background, in some cases dismantling their ideas about what is dangerous and what is not. I went to some primary schools in Geneva to talk about CERN for instance, and of course, I am a CERN guide. Albert Einstein said: “you do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother”, I like to change “grandmother” with “whoever did not study what you did and who is scared of the unknown”
What is working at CERN like for you?
Working at CERN means learning something new every single day. About work, about the Organization, a new word in French or in English, or something new about myself and the way I deal with new challenges and new people.
What advice would you give to potential applicants?
We are always the toughest judge of ourselves. Do not let the opportunity to apply for a CERN position pass you by, just because you think “I am not up to the task”. Give yourself a chance; you might be surprised by the outcome.