The winners of the Infn “Women in Theoretical Physics” award speak. Here is the new generation of female scientists: in their twenties and internationals. The gender gap? “It’s now just a problem of numbers”
“I would like to know if atoms and nuclei, or mathematical symbols, DNA molecules prefer to be treated by men or by women” are the words of Madame Wu, a pioneer of gender equality among scientists, in a famous 1964 speech at MIT of Boston. Following the inspiration of Madame Wu – the Lady of particles – and Milla Baldo Ceolin – the Lady of neutrinos – the “Women in Theoretical Physics – National Award Milla Baldo Ceolin” 2020 was awarded for the first time to the 10 best theses of master’s degree in Theoretical Physics. The ceremony took place on 21 September at the Galileo Galilei Institute – Infn National Center for Advanced Studies (Arcetri – Florence). Among the winners we meet: Federica Devoto (University of Genoa and PhD student at Oxford), Ersilia Guarini (University of Bari, PhD student at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen), Silvia Zanoli (University of Milan and PhD student at the Marx Planck Institute in Munich) ) and Clara Del Pio (University of Pavia, PhD student in Pavia). They were born in 1996, at the end of the golden age of physics, they release energy and enthusiasm for the most difficult and complex of all scientific disciplines. In their words one can hear the “hidden force” of the new generation of female scientists, who are claiming their place in the achievements of science.
Let’s start from the origin: how did the choice to study Physics come about? Ersilia: In high school when you learned about Einstein’s photoelectric effect and I am grateful to my school for visiting CERN. My passion is Astroparticle Theory.
Silvia: I thought I was an engineer, but in the 4th and 5th year of high school, thanks to my teacher, the Physics bulb turned on. I deal with elementary particles and their interactions.
Federica: I owe everything to my teacher, who arrived in 3rd high school, who opened my eyes to the world of physics and then the fact that studying physics presented itself as an intellectual challenge stimulated me. My focus is theoretical high energy physics.
Clara: I wanted to understand how the world works, and by exclusion I chose physics because it embraces everything, the high school teacher helped to reinforce this idea. Now I dedicate myself to future accelerators.
How much has the study of physics influenced your lives?
Ersilia: it was a therapy, I was very shy and insecure, the challenge in the study and the dissemination activity have revolutionized my character. I learned to think differently. Physics opens the mind!
Federica: in physics I found the best way to express myself and to be more consistent with myself, studying physical phenomena stimulates curiosity, I’m happy when something doesn’t work, because something else is hidden there. It is an all-encompassing journey, if you are passionate about it, you see physics everywhere and it allows you to understand the harmony that exists with what surrounds us.
Silvia: physics has strengthened the attitude of loving what I do, it stimulates curiosity, the desire to do and learn looking ahead.
Clara: I learned to have critical thinking, now I feel great satisfaction in asking myself questions and seeking answers.
They all agree that the environment and international collaborations are the real wealth, because they help to get to know different cultures and people, we all speak the same language, that of physics. They have their own point of view on the gender gap and the relationship with study colleagues. It is a problem of numbers, compared to 15 men enrolled in the master’s degree course in Theoretical Physics there are 1 or 2 women. But on gender diversity, with peers and professors, they find no difference and are confident that music is changing. The new generation of men has other points of view, with respect to the recognition of women. Some of them are convinced that talking about gender discrimination in science can be a starting point for a radical transformation, now there is more attention and they believe that it is the right time to change pace. Not forgetting, in fact, all female scientists who in the past have been underestimated and humiliated: their research has often been plundered by men, under the eyes of a conniving international scientific community. All together and loudly they ask to encourage, by every possible means, the study of Theoretical Physics among women and remember that the President of the Infn (National Institute of Nuclear Physics), during the ceremony for their award, acknowledged that the physics is suffering from the presence of women and has declared that it will undertake to implement an action plan based on two levels:
1) do orientation towards the study of physics for high school students;
2) launch specific initiatives who, during the first level university course, encourage and encourage the girls to continue in the master’s degree in Theoretical Physics. Before leaving for their European research centers, the young researchers want to reiterate that for all of them physics is «the joy and the condemnation», you take it home even after work and it keeps spinning in your head.
Finally, Federica confesses her little secret: Maxwell’s equation, in the covariant formulation □ Aμ = Jμ which founds electromagnetism with Einstein’s relativity, is tattooed on his arm. Because every human relationship is an electromagnetic interaction.
September 27, 2021 (change September 27, 2021 | 11:18)
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