"There is truly no other place like CERN": meet Line, microelectronics student at the University of Oslo

CERN is a melting pot of rich minds and ideas, and everyone is highly driven by passion.

Meet Line, a technical student from Norway currently working on CERN's ISOLDE experiment. If you're inspired, why not "chase the dream" as Line says? Take part and apply now.

Hi line, tell us a little bit a about yourself and what brought you to CERN.

My name is Line Le, and I am a microelectronics student at the University of Oslo. As my studies were coming to an end, I had to decide how to proceed with my professional career. With the goal of becoming an engineer, it was natural to look for opportunities in the technological industries. However, I was always intrigued by multidisciplinary projects, and one thing was for sure: I wanted to keep learning and expanding my horizons. 
I reflected on the idea of being a researcher, and at some point, I knew I wanted to do engineering work at a research facility. One thing led to another, and I stumbled upon the Technical Studentship Programme at CERN. With some luck, I was granted an opportunity to work for the automation group in the beams department.

What do you do at CERN today?

I assist in the development of control systems for various experiments at ISOLDE. The purpose of the ISOLDE facility is to produce exotic nuclear isotopes. These isotopes are then separated and delivered to a wide range of experimental set-ups, from astrophysics experiments aiming to recreate reactions in the stars, to biomedical physics experiments for cancer treatment research. 
Most elements consist of a mixture of several isotopes. At ISOLDE, we want to separate the isotopes of an element from one another. My first project revolves around the development of a mass scan application for the off-line separators. In short, the purpose of this application is to scan the mass of beam lines passing through the various mass spectrometers.

What is working at CERN like for you?

Working at CERN is an enriching experience – both personally and professionally. CERN is a melting pot of rich minds and ideas, and everyone is highly driven by passion. Being a part of a community such as CERN is also very humbling. It gives me the feeling of being entangled in something bigger, and that through shared work with others, I am taking actions toward outcomes that go beyond my own life and direct needs. 
I am still only a newcomer, but I have already been allowed to learn about and delve into disciplines other than my own. Being granted the opportunity to connect with like-minded people in an environment that transcends cultural barriers is something I am grateful for. There is truly no other place like CERN.

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

The thought of leaving my comfort zone and having to adjust to a foreign country during the pandemic was a big challenge. It took me two attempts to travel from Norway to Geneva, and it is still very restrictive in my local area. With the current climate, there was no way of knowing how long I would have to go without seeing my loved ones. However, I had to tell myself that I would be more disappointed by the opportunities I did not take than by the ones I did.
Despite the challenges, I must say that this is one of the best decisions I have made. Not only is the weather great, but I was blessed with very welcoming colleagues and roommates. From the very beginning, the work I was assigned gave me a sense of fulfilment. The majority of CERN is currently closed off and empty, but my supervisors have done a great job at including me in their environment and gone through hurdles to take me and other students around the facilities at CERN. 

What advice would you give potential applicants?

As cheesy as it sounds, my mantra is “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. I know that self-doubt is a big barrier for many who wish to chase their dreams, but I firmly believe that the fear of trying is the biggest barrier.
Moreover, most people think that CERN is a place for only physicists. As a matter of fact, 2/3 of the staff are engineers, applied scientists and technicians. If you are passionate and eager to learn, you should not hesitate to apply!
Lastly, I want to remind my fellow Norwegians that, “Berre den som vandrar, finn nye vegar”. We are an introverted bunch, but it is by challenging our ideas and mindsets that we can grow and improve ourselves!