Meet Valentina Dzjumane, a Computer Scientist and Finance university student, from Latvia!

"Besides the opportunity to collaborate on interesting scientific, technical and engineering problems, there’s also constant opportunities for self-expression, further education and meeting very interesting and unique people."

1) Tell us about yourself and what brought you to CERN?


My name is Valentina Elizabete Dzjumane, I am a 21-year-old undergraduate student from Latvia.  I am working towards a double bachelors in Computer Science (Riga Technical University) and Finance (BA School of Business and Finance). I am leading an upcoming organisation in Latvia, to support women in technology, with special focus on engineering.


I’ve always been a traveller, and  growing up I have lived in the United Kingdom, Latvia, Spain, and Israel. As a side-effect of this, I am fluent in Latvian, English, Russian, and Spanish. I used to speak German and I hope to speak French soon. So, one of the things that brings me to CERN for sure is the international environment; something that I have gotten used to since I was little. 


I first visited CERN as a participant of the “job shadowing program” in 2019. Even though Latvia was not an Associate Member of CERN back then, there were still some Latvian scientists working here, including Prof. Toms Torims and Arturs Ivanovs. Four other students and I had an incredible opportunity to see CERN through our own eyes. I visited the CMS detector, Synchro-Cyclotron, learnt about CERN’s contributions to the scientific community and had a fascinating discussion with Christopher Schaefer about physics. Additionally, I have also visited WTO and UN with Toms Torims and Martins Kreitus (former Latvian Ambassador in the UN).


During this trip, I realised that CERN is definitely a great work place. Besides the opportunity to collaborate on interesting scientific, technical and engineering problems, there’s also constant opportunities for self-expression, further education and meeting very interesting and unique people.  The whole experience convinced me that CERN would continue to play a huge role in the scientific and research community for years to come and as a high school student I was highly motivated to pursue a career in science and engineering, hoping someday I could come back to contribute more directly to CERN’s mission. 


2) What do you do at CERN today?


 In March 2022, I started working as a Technical Student in the Computing section of the Atlas Data Processing group in the Experimental Physics department (EP-ADP-CO). I am designing a web application to facilitate management of the databases used by Atlas’s Tier-0 experts. My application makes several improvements over its predecessors, for example, by enabling the Tier-0 experts to simultaneously manage multiple database sessions and providing them with functionality tailored to their use-cases. 


I have been very lucky with my team. I enjoy working with them and learning something new every day. In case I have any questions, I am always able to get answers quickly which creates a great work environment. It also turns out that I am the first bachelor student from Latvia participating in the Technical Student Program, so I am really motivated to represent Latvia well and also deliver a useful tool for my team. 


3) What is working at CERN like for you?


Working at CERN has been my dream since my first visit in 2019. Therefore, when I was accepted for the Technical Student Program, I was overjoyed and really proud for having the opportunity to make my contributions to CERN. 


I mentioned earlier that, during the job shadowing program, I realised that working at CERN would be a great professional experience and learning opportunity.  I have to say, that I have not been let down on either fronts and in my opinion, CERN is indeed a great place to start my professional journey. I do need to highlight that working here requires a lot of dedication and focus. For example, despite holding first class diplomas in both my universities, there are quite a lot of things I had to pick up and understand quickly in order to deliver useful results for my project. So, there has been a significant amount of additional time investment in online courses and self-study to bridge that gap, and I am really happy about everything I have learnt along the way.


A great thing about working at CERN is also the variety of activities and clubs that enable meeting new people from all spaces, more often outside of my usual circles. For example, I became part of the “Women in Technology” community, participated in internal sporting events like the CERN Relay Race and have learnt more about particle physics than I would if I had not been here. CERN is indeed a very big organisation, so these communities and activities are important as they allow meeting people out of my team and usual circle.


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


As I am the only woman in an all-men team, one of the obvious questions that I often get is: “What’s it like?”. For me, this has actually been an incredible experience and I never felt this to be a challenge neither in my team, nor at CERN in general.


I am a curious person and one of the reasons I decided to work for CERN during my internship was also the great variety of educational courses (organised by CERN). To begin with, it was complicated to find a balance between attending all the courses for self development and studying what I actually need for my project and future career.


The funniest challenge that definitely everyone encountered here was to figure out the logic of building numbers. The first day I came here, I could not understand why when I enter building 1 and I walk straight in a corridor, I end up in building 51.


5) What advice would you give to potential applicants?


I would highly encourage the potential applicants to proceed with their applications without a second thought. It is a challenging program to get to, so I would advise them to come up with clear targets and create a plan accordingly, which would ultimately consist of little steps on how the target can be achieved. Then follow these steps one by one, taking in account that any failure on the way is actually an experience.

Inspired? If you're a student looking for an internship opportunity to complement your studies, check out our different technical, doctoral and administrative programmes and apply! CERN. Take part!