Today, 11 February 2022 is International Day of Women and Girls in Science. In order to achieve full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls, and further achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, the United Nations General Assembly declared 11 February as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.
This year we have asked female PhD students a few questions about their first memories of science, what the coolest thing they have worked on is and if there are things they wished they’d known before the started in science.
Alicia Castro Bermudez, PhD student Theoretical Physics group Nikhef/Radboud University Nijmegen
– What is your first memory of science? “I was in school at 7 years old, my teacher was explaining the solar system to us, I remember feeling overwhelmed by the thought of how big the universe could be and we were just a part of it.”
– What is the coolest thing you have ever worked on? “Right now, I am working on constructing candidates for quantum spacetime. Such spacetimes could explain how gravity works at very high energies such as the beginning of the universe and/or the centre of black holes.”
Melissa Lopez, PhD student Gravitational Waves group Nikhef / Utrecht University
– What is your first memory of science? “My first memory of science was, as a kid, watching Cosmos by Carl Sagan with my dad. The topic of the documentary was about the origin of the Universe and the formation of galaxies. I remember thinking: “so cool! I want to do that. How can I learn about this?” Over time, I realized that I wanted to study Physics and work as a scientist.”
Rasa Muller, PhD student in the KM3NeT group at Nikhef
– What is your first memory of science? “As a kid on open museum weekend, my parents let me and my sister once pick a museum to go to. They had in mind a museum with paintings, sculptures or photographs, but instead we picked the science museum Boerhaave in Leiden! Also the National Science Quiz Junior was an annual highlight! We always watched it with the whole family on the couch. It is such a shame that it stopped in 2018! I really would like to revive it in the future for future generations. And last but not least my granddad, who passed away 20 years ago, had a big passion for Math, Physics and Cosmology and taught related classes at the nautical school. He loved to show me as a kid a Möbius strip, small beautiful tricks with numbers, or a Constellation in the sky, and I loved it!”
– What is the coolest thing you have ever worked on? “Investigating the possibility of detecting the cosmic neutrino background in my master project! I would love to follow this up in the future.”
Clara Gatius, PhD student in the KM3NeT group at Nikhef
-What is your first memory of science? “My first memory of doing science is during primary school. We used to go to the garden to learn the different parts of the plants. I remember the excitement of seeing the little changes on the plants we had sowed. From the first sprouts, to the blooming and the fruits.”
Alexandra Mitchell, PhD student in the Gravitational Waves group at Nikhef / VU
– What is the coolest thing you have ever worked on? “Working in instrument science for gravitational wave detectors means you are at the cutting edge of science and technology. I am modelling, building and testing instruments which are the most sensitive of their kind. I enjoy having gravitational waves detection as the motivation for this work as it is exciting and will hopefully allow us to answer big questions about the universe.”
– What is a thing you wish you’d known before getting into science? “I wish I had worked harder on my languages in school. I now have the opportunity to travel for work and live in different countries and my language skills can’t keep up!”