Italian Diploma di Maturita Scientifica (Esame di Stato)
PhD Particle Physics (Italian Dottorato di Ricerca)
Cristina studies how sub-atomic particles interact in an attempt to understand the beginning of everything.
Cristina wasn’t always sure she wanted to do physics, and growing up in Italy meant that she didn’t have to choose between science and humanities until university. ‘I studied 10 subjects in sciences and humanities, including physics, languages and philosophy, for the secondary school diploma. My school did have a focus on science and maths but at the time it wasn’t clear to me that I wanted to study physics at university’.
When she realised that understanding the fundamentals of how the world works was what really mattered to her, the decision was easy. ‘There’s nothing more fundamental than physics and the structure of matter,’ she says.
And since plumping for physics she hasn’t looked back. ‘One of the many great things about physics is that it gives you the chance to travel. I was born in a small town in Tuscany and physics has allowed me to visit places as far away from there as Brazil and California. I’m still waiting to get to Australia, though!’
Now based at the University of Birmingham, Cristina moved to the UK after finishing her studies. ‘The UK is a great place to do physics. My first job in the UK was at the University of Edinburgh where I worked on a project looking at what’s called ‘CP violation’ – the balance of matter and antimatter in the universe. I’m still working in this area of physics and one of my proudest moments so far was the publication of the research I was involved in that measured CP violation precisely for the first time.’
Cristina’s workload is flexible and varied, combining teaching, outreach and admin with her research. ‘The great thing about physics is that it allows you to keep on learning new things. Within the next 10 years we’ll have a much better idea of whether the Standard Model – the set of theories that best describes current observations of how the world is made – needs to be modified or replaced. It’s an exciting time to be involved in particle physics.’
And Cristina’s advice for anyone unsure of whether physics is for them? ‘Doing physics at university is a great way of obtaining the critical thinking skills that are needed for a huge variety of jobs. Doing a physics degree doesn’t confine you to becoming a physicist, rather it opens all sorts of doors.’
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