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Androula Alekou

CERN/University of Manchester

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Working in STEM is like solving a riddle! It's challenging, you need a good team of people to brainstorm with and and fail and try again until that riddle is solved!

What do you do?

I work on the upgrade of the largest particle accelerator in the world, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN! It smashes tiny particles together that travel with the speed of light! From these collisions we get a step closer to understanding how the universe was created!

Why did you choose this field?

At high-school I wasn't sure if I wanted to study classics or physics - 2 subjects completely opposite to one another. I was a straight-A student and liked both topics, and I guess because my brother and sister went for classics I was inclined to follow that path too. Thankfully my dad was pushing me towards STEM because he felt those subjects were a closer match to my personality. At the time I was a student at one of the worst public high-schools in Cyprus. My Physics teacher was asking for a volunteer to go to the board and solve a problem. I glanced the book, understood the problem, raised my hand and went to the board and did it. A classmate turned to me and said "If you understood how to solve that with a glance, you shouldn't wonder anymore, go for Physics". My dad and classmate's encouragements were the small push I needed to take the decision to change my course selection from "Greek/Latin/History" to "Maths/Physics/Chemistry". And so I did. Best decision of my life.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

Working at CERN. When I was studying Physics at the University of Cyprus I saw a program on TV with physicists and engineers, working on the largest particle accelerator of the world, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). I saw that and exclaimed how fascinating that was, and how I wish it would be possible for me to work there. Who knew that one day I would work at CERN, for a total of 5 years and counting!

Why do you love working in STEM?

Working in STEM is like solving a riddle! It's challenging, you need a good team of people to brainstorm with and chat and fail and try again and fail and try again until that riddle is solved! And then there is another riddle and another. You need to break down the problem and try to see it from different angles, and follow different approaches, it makes you think!

Best advice for next generation?

STEM subjects are super interesting! From learning how the Universe was created, to how to treat cancer effectively and finding out what a virus is made of! Plus, the problem solving skills you acquire by studying STEM subjects is so applicable to jobs that are outside academia too, whether that's in technology, industry, finance, patent offices or government!

Inspo quote / fun fact

"If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.” William A. Ward