EPS Emmy Noether Distinction Spring-Summer 2017 for Women in Physics

By . Published on 26 September 2017 in:
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It is a great pleasure to announce that the Spring-Summer 2017 EPS Emmy Noether Distinction for Women in Physics goes to Dr. Catalina Curceanu from the Frascati National Laboratory of the Italian Institute for Nuclear Research (LNF-INFN).

Catalina Curceanu
Catalina Curceanu

Catalina carries on an outstanding research work in the field of experimental nuclear, hadronic and quantum physics. She has successfully covered many leadership roles and has won an impressive series of awards and prizes. Besides her numerous scientific achievements Catalina carries on an intensive mentoring activity of researchers and students and is also engaged in a very rich activity of dissemination of the scientific culture.

We present a short interview between Catalina Curceanu [CC] and Lucia Di Ciaccio [LDC], chair of the Equal Opportunities Committee of the EPS, in Summer 2017.

LDC: At what point in your education did you consider a career in physics?

CC: It happened rather early in my education – when I was 11-12 years old. I was born and grew up in Transylvania (Romania) and studied until I was 14 years old there. I always loved science – ever since I started to study mathematics. I was lucky to have great teachers! In those years my grandmother was living in an isolated place, far from the town, in a little house where electricity was scarce, so in the nights the sky was shining with stars! I was amazed and thrilled looking at all those stars and I kept asking my father and all those around me questions about the Universe. How far are the stars? Why are they shining? How big is the Universe? Ever since, I didn’t stop asking questions! I understood that physics is the best way to find answers, so I decided to study physics and I became a scientist. I believe that being curious is one of the key ingredients in having made this choice.

LDC: During your career, did you feel that there were equal opportunities for boys and girls?

CC: I studied in Romania and arrived in Italy after graduating, so my career started in Romania, but developed in Italy.

When I was in Romania, during school and University, there were equal opportunities for boys and girls, I never felt that boys and girls were treated differently. I realise now that in Italy, sometimes, there are prejudices against girls studying science; families and sometimes the girls themselves consider science, physics in particular, a career more appropriate for a boy – which is absolutely not true! Fortunately, Italy and Europe are implementing many strategies and actions to encourage girls to choose a STEM career. I very often go to schools and talk with the students. I could see for myself that this is important. Having a scientist explaining what science is, moreover a woman scientist, can trigger their passion in many girls (which existed but maybe was hidden) for physics and help them to choose to become scientists. Otherwise, in spite of the fact that I really enjoy the series, we remain with the role-model of scientists proposed by “The Big Bang Theory”.

LDC: Do you believe that physics should positively discriminate in favour of women?

CC: No, I don’t. What I believe instead is that men and women should be considered equally, and this not always happens; especially for higher positions in the career.

LDC: Do you have any advice for young women starting a career in physics?

CC: Never give up on your dreams! Work hard, focus and keep focussed on the objectives. Don’t let (small) problems bias you, since problems always happen. Enjoy what you are doing, from the bottom of your heart – every minute of it, and not only in physics.

Visit the EPS website to see previous winners of the EPS Emmy Noether Distinction.

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