An interview with Claire Malone

Name: Claire Malone

Current Job: PhD Student at the University of Cambridge

Scientific Discipline/Field: High Energy Physics

Country: United Kingdom

Pick some letters (L,G,B,T,Q,+, etc.): B, T, Q


Twitter or other social media handle: @geeknproud42 on Twitter and @clairenbmalone42 on Instagram

What does your job involve?

I analyse data from the ATLAS Experiment at the LHC at CERN to search for new particles which are not currently included in the Standard Model (SM) of particle physics. Our understanding of the world around us is based on this theory that describes the properties and behaviour of fundamental building blocks and is called the Standard Model of particle physics. Although its formulation is one of the greatest scientific achievements of the 20th century, it is, however, incomplete. A possible solution to the incompleteness of the SM is offered by a theory called Supersymmetry (SUSY), as it is one of the strongest candidates for the explanation of physics which is not accounted for by the SM. SUSY extends the SM by postulating a supersymmetric particle for every SM particle. These particles possess almost identical properties to their SM counterparts except for slight differences in how they interact with each other. The quest to find its missing pieces has motivated the construction of particle accelerators probing fundamental particles at increasingly high centre-of-mass energies and luminosities, the LHC at CERN being the latest to continue this legacy. It is these elusive particles that I aim to discover by designing ways to distinguish these SUSY particles from the SM particles that have been studied in great detail already.
In previous projects during my PhD, I have developed novel techniques for measuring the luminosity of the LHC’s proton-proton beam, by using the inner-most detector of our experimental apparatus, ATLAS. The technique provided a luminosity measurement that was complementary to the reading given by ATLAS’s dedicated luminometers, thus decreasing the uncertainty in this quantity which is used in almost every analysis conducted by our collaboration.

How did you get to this job (education etc.)?

My passion to understand the world around me motivated me to complete an MSci in Physics at Imperial College London. As the root of my interest is in understanding the behaviour of the fundamental particles that comprise our universe, this led me to analyse data from the LHC as part of the high energy physics group at the University of Cambridge.

Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions?

I don’t think that being LGBT has affected my career decisions but I do think it has given me the opportunity to get involved in many fantastic groups and initiatives for LGBTQ people in STEM. I think that my physical disability, cerebral palsy, has had a greater impact on my career. Throughout my career, I have had to devise techniques of studying to negotiate the fact that I cannot use a pen/keyboard directly due to my physical disability. For example, when studying for my astrophysics examination, I made notes by “typing” in latex using a keyboard controlled by my eye movements.

Have you had any reactions from colleagues about being LGBT, either good or bad?

Not particularly, but I have had to deal with people’s negative preconceptions about my disability and my ability to conduct research in physics.

Did you have any role models growing up (LGBT, STEM, totally unrelated.)?

Marie Curie

What are your plans for the future?

I am passionate about science communication in all its forms and would like to facilitate dialogue between the STEM community and the general public.

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