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Geraldine Conti

Nationality: Swiss

Geraldine Conti may only be 18 months into her PhD, but she’s already worked on three different projects at LHCb. “EPFL, the university where I study [based in Lausanne], has very close ties with CERN,” she explains. “In the first year of a PhD all physics students come here to help out.”  

Geraldine ContiWorking with two other PhD students from EPFL, Geraldine finished constructing the detector’s inner tracker a few weeks ago, a process that took them several months. “Working on the assembly, you obviously learn where all the pieces are placed and can really appreciate its design," says Geraldine. "It gives you a real understanding of how the tracker works.”

Her other two projects are still ongoing. “At the moment I’m working to make sure that the computer map of the magnetic field and the inner tracker are accurate," she says. "This is very important for when data collection begins.”

When not at CERN, Geraldine attends classes and teaches physics to undergraduates at EPFL. “I really like Lausanne,” she says, "but I try to come to CERN once or twice a week. Here you meet people from so many different nationalities working together towards the same goal. When you speak with them, you hear so many interesting things: about physics, of course, but also about lots of other subjects as well.”

The next step for Geraldine is starting her PhD project. “I'll be studying the decay channels of two types of b meson,” she explains. “I’m really looking forward to it - what I’ve been doing up to now has been interesting, and I’ve learned a lot, but finally I get to do some real physics analysis.”

Growing up in the rural canton of Jura, Geraldine’s early education was far from scientific. “I did little physics at secondary school,” she recalls. “I chose to study Latin, but later realized that I really loved mathematics, and I knew that I wanted to do something scientific at some point. I took optional courses at in astronomy in high school and it was then that I first thought I’d like to be a physicist.”

The shift from astronomy to particle physics came later, during an undergraduate degree at EPFL. Geraldine liked it so much she’s stayed in Lausanne ever since. She sees her future elsewhere, however. “I would like to go on and do some post-docs, and go abroad for that - to a foreign university. And after that, I'd like to go on to have a career as an academic – but it’s a big dream, we’ll see what the reality is!”