Particle Physics PhD Student, University of Manchester

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Don't give up if someone says no or you don't get the grades you want, if you love a subject, pursue it, someone will recognise that spark and value you for it.

Candice Basson

What do you do?

I essentially do data analysis and coding. So I look at the data produced by the ATLAS experiment with an analysis group of 10-20 people and look for new particles. My group is looking for evidence of dark matter particles and something called supersymmetry. It's really exciting because even if we don't find anything, we've explored new techniques and ideas.

Why did you choose this field?

I actually had no intention of doing a PhD. I knew I loved statistics from my A-level with some interest in physics and how things worked so I (very last minute) chose a degree in particle physics. I was planning to work with data analysis for a company after I graduated but in my third year I did a particle physics project and fell in love. The only option to continue was a PhD so I went forward with that after talking with lecturers I trusted. At the core, I just really want to know how things work, for me looking at data is how I do that.

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

Somewhere between graduating with a masters and starting a PhD. I really struggled in my final years of school, I had a LOT of exam retakes and getting into uni was a struggle. Getting into uni and then pursuing a PhD was not something I saw happening when I was 17/18. Graduation was a very emotional day for me and my family, I wouldn't have gotten this far without them.

Why do you love working in STEM?

Having no idea where the day will take me. I work with other people so there's some limits but mostly it's up to me how I want to explore a topic or a problem. The moments where suddenly I realise how to fix my problem or move forward after struggling for awhile is addictive.
For the days in between, my colleagues are the best I've ever had and I genuinely look forward to spending my time working or talking with them.

Best advice for next generation?

There's a lot of focus on grades and unfortunately they can't be ignored but they're not everything. I eventually passed my exams but I was never top of the class, I hit 'average' but I found a passion for what I did. Passing exams got me in the door but it was my love for what I did that got me where I am. Don't give up if someone says no or you don't get the grades you want, if you love a subject, pursue it, someone will recognise that spark and value you for it.

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” - Eleanor Roosevelt

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