The Indian Woman in Science at CERN

Shiva at Centre for Nuclear Research

by Divya Badri

Women and girls in science need greater representation internationally. Gender equality is a sustainable development goal number 5. Why is gender equality in science important for sustainable development in India or anywhere else in the world? Equal access to education and opportunities is essential. This applies not only to societies in the Global North but also in the Global South. Be it in Switzerland or in India, it also applies in the field of science and tech.

Finding solutions to end gender inequality requires female role-models. Higher numbers of women scientists and technologists could inspire young girls to take up this field as a profession.

A Woman in Science from India!

Archana Sharma is an Indian living in Geneva, Switzerland. In India’s respected and widely read national daily The Hindu, she shares the challenges she faced. “It was challenging to do a Ph.D in a place where I had to get through exams in French, a language totally alien to me. Designing and building detectors from scratch was another tough task. There was no weekend, no holidays, and with a young child, it was an uphill task. But I had to take these challenges head on.” Dr. Archana Sharma works at CERN, the European Centre for Nuclear Research, which is located in Geneva, Switzerland. She was part of the team that discovered the famous God particle – the Higgs Boson.

Quantum physics is a challenging subject already, moreover, being in a completely different culture could not have been easy for Dr. Sharma when she began her journey.

Of Subatomic Particles and Hope for the Future

When CERN has its open day in Geneva, never miss the chance! My first impressions from the European Centre for Nuclear Research on the Swiss-French border are incredibly captivating.

Physicists at CERN will always tell you they know that they know nothing. They delve into the goings on of subatomic particles. They seem to have gotten the big picture a lot more clearly than so many news headlines! It was refreshing to meet people who are seeking the truth via science. The monotonous humdrum of daily news and politics are soon forgotten. You then hope for a better future, when immersed in seeking answers via giant, underground experiments.

“Take photos and talk about us!”

CERN asks people to come and discover the future with them. CERN has an ancient, extremely old symbol from Indian culture right in the Centre of their campus. Why is there a Shiva statue (a Hindu God) in the middle of CERN? Visit their website where they answer this in French and in English. Listen to Aldous Huxley explain the dancing Shiva in his interview from the 1960’s!

Usually, one is told to keep cameras away while visiting prestigious capitalistic establishments. In the true spirit of seeking the truth and collaboration, Dr. Archana Sharma from CERN encouraged me to take photos. A woman who has dedicated her life to science, told me to spread the word about their establishment of knowledge! The feeling in the air was just so calming and nice, equitable, authentic. It truly felt sustainable for years to come.

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