Discovering Particles

Meet the team: Cristina Lazzeroni

What is it like being a scientist?
It’s fun, but also rather demanding. It’s also very varied, so that I’ve had the chance to do many different things over the years. Also I get to travel a lot, which I like very much.

What inspired you to become a scientist?
I enjoyed mathematics and science subjects at schools, and was fascinated by understanding how things work. Then one of my school teachers told me that I was never going to be a scientist, and I couldn’t resist the temptation of proving her wrong!

What is the best thing about being a scientist / your job?
The challenge of understanding new things. It’s never boring, because it keeps changing. Also, I like the freedom in this work

If you could go back in time which scientist would you like to meet and what would you ask them?
I would like to meet Leonardo da Vinci and ask him what machines he could design taking advantage of the strong, lightweight materials available today.

What do you do in your free time?
I am a keen gardener, and my house and garden are full of plants, some rare and exotic. I also like going to cinema, theatre and opera when I have time, and love visiting art exhibitions.

What is the first science you remember doing?
When I was about four-years old, I used to chase after lizards, once catching one by the tail. The lizard escaped by shedding its tail, leaving me absolutely stunned! I was amazed to discover that this was a defence mechanism, and that the lizard would regrow its tail.

What advice would you give a school child who is interested in science/How would you inspire a child/non-scientist to be interested in the work you do?
To keep their options open, as it is difficult to decide to do something without having experienced it directly. Depending on what a person really likes to do, a job in science may be many different things. Science relates to every aspect of our lives, so I’d start by asking someone what in particular they like doing, and show how science is important for everyday life.

What’s the funniest/strangest/most surprising experience you have had in your career?
In 2003, I gave a talk at Oxford, where I made many references to a process known as a "Dalitz decay", discovered by the physicist Richard Dalitz, as a graduate student in the nineteen forties. After the talk, a number of people came up to me, to chat and ask questions. One of them, a kind-faced elderly gentleman, said, "Congratulations! Ah, by the way, I’m Dalitz." I’d had no idea he was in the room!

What discovery or invention could you really not live without?
I think I would be pretty miserable without a hot-water bottle in winter!

What do you think is the most important thing yet to be discovered/invented?
Definitely the time machine. (Before you ask, yes, I’m a great admirer of Doctor Who!)

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