"You only fail when you stop trying": wise advice from Bharti, CERN fellow from India

My journey to CERN has been the most miraculous experience I have ever had.

Hello Bharti, tell us a little about yourself and what brought you to CERN?

My name is Bharti Verma and I am a chemical engineer. I have recently joined CERN as a fellow. I completed my PhD from Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, India where I worked on the application of nanotechnology in the treatment of wastewater. A part of my Ph.D. work was executed in one of the leading companies of India. 

My journey to CERN has been the most miraculous experience I have ever had. It has provided me with such a positive outlook towards life. The roots lie deep in the month of March 2020 when I was scheduled to attend an international conference in USA as a part of my Ph.D program. I vividly remember how happy I was since I was hoping to collaborate with professionals for my postdoctoral ventures. It was supposed to be my first ever international project. However, just a few hours before the departure of my flight, all flights to USA got cancelled for an indefinite period (thanks to COVID-19) along with the conference I was going to attend. Air ticket wasted; all prepaid reservations were compromised. I kept asking, why me? However, there seemed to be a bigger and a better plan for me. To bring me on track, my father gave me the idea that this was the best time to invest in thesis writing. I pulled my socks up, used the initial COVID period for thesis writing, successfully defended my work and got my doctorate.

I kept applying for postdoctoral positions in various institutes. I would not say that I had always dreamt of being at CERN because I did not feel I was capable enough to be a part of it. I came across the CERN fellowship program while surfing for various postdoctoral positions and applied on the CERN portal. The miracle happened when I actually got an email saying that my profile was pre-selected for the program. I got interviewed, and here I am at CERN since 1 March 2021.

In March 2020, I was asking "why me?" and a year later, in March 2021, I am thankful for being chosen for the CERN fellowship.  

What do you do at CERN today?

I am a senior fellow working in the TE-MSC-GLO section with Dr. Davide Tommasini and Dr. Helene Felice. I am working on the characterization of the physical properties of several advanced impregnation systems for accelerator magnets. I am performing various adhesion tests for different materials, different geometry, different impregnation systems, surface treatments, configurations and interlayer materials. My goal would be to define the standards for adhesion especially for very liquid systems.

What is working at CERN like for you?

There are many reasons why I keep saying, this is the best phase of my life. Every morning waking up to the thought of “Oh I will be contributing my small part in the understanding of life” is a motivation on another level. The panoramic views of the Jura mountains help any initial stress melt away. My colleagues are more like friends, who are there to help me whenever I need. The idea of thinking together for the common goal, but via different routes is energising. 

What have been the main hurdles or challenges you encountered along the way?

Coming from one continent to another continent especially in the pandemic can be daunting for anyone and I am no exception. The restaurants are closed, so I have not been able to actually sit in an Italian restaurant and enjoy the meal. Meeting new people and making friends have also been quite challenging because of the pandemic. However, this phase shall pass and hopefully will be able to relish the stay even more.

What advice would you give potential applicants?

My advice to aspiring CERN applicants would be to remain calm and positive. Even though you might think you have no chance, please apply! You will be amazed to see people with such varied technological backgrounds here. Trust in yourself and remember that you only fail when you stop trying.

Inspired? take your chance and apply now for CERN's fellowship programme for graduates in diverse STEM disciplines! Take part.

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