Discovering Particles

Meet the team: Karim Massri

What is it like being a scientist?
Being a scientist it's being constantly on the human knowledge frontiers, so it's writing the future history, handling with and creating the newest technologies in the world. In a nutshell, it's like building the pyramids or the cathedrals of our era.

What inspired you to become a scientist?
I've always been a really curious child. I continuously asked for answers that neither my parents were able to satisfy, and this just because I couldn't believe that the sky is blue or that the sunset is red for no reasons. Everything has a reason, and the reason of my choice is just that I wanted to know as much reasons as possible.

What is the best thing about being a scientist / your job?
The best thing is that I love my job. And I love it for many reasons, but maybe the main one is that I'm always stimulated by puzzles that it often provides to me and I really feel satisfied in getting the solutions. Furthermore, it allows me to get in touch with really different cultures and thoughts.

If you could go back in time which scientist would you like to meet and what would you ask them?
I guess that one of the most interesting scientists of the past is Galileo Galilei which, as many scientists said, is the father of the modern science. I would ask him how hard it'd been recanting his own ideas and if he would do it again, going back in time.

What do you do in your free time?
This kind of job hasn't a strict timetable; this fact could sound like a virtue, but actually it means that sometime own free time is really little. In particular, it's really difficult to attend on some pre-scheduled activities. Anyway, I try to spend as much free time as possible travelling in the whole UK and in Italy too.

What is the first science you remember doing?
When I was 6, my teacher involved me and my classmates in making a cartoon camera obscura. It was just a cartoon box with a little hole and a paper screen opposite to it. What we observed was that the acquired images were flipped back, so he told us that our eyes see in this way and is the brain that reverse the images once again.

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?
For getting a child involved in particle physics I would try to make him thinking about what everything is made, in particular even himself, and about the fact that everything at the end is made of the same really small particles, in different combinations. So, studying those particles the child could be studying the whole universe!

What’s the funniest/strangest/most surprising experience you have had in your career?
In Italy I used to be a demonstrator at the Scientific Ludoteca (a scientific educational play centre) in which there were a lot of little physics experiments; one of them was the Levitron, a magnetic spinning top that floats in the air without any mechanical support. In the pauses, me and the other demonstrators challenged each other for getting the top floated as long as possible.

What discovery or invention could you really not live without?
I guess that the most important discovery ever could be the discovery of the electron, made by J.J. Thomson. Indeed, even if "anything at first sight seems more impractical than a body which is so small that its mass is an insignificant fraction of the mass of an atom of hydrogen", all the electronics-related items like the computer, the phone or the TV wouldn't have been created without.

What do you think is the most important thing yet to be discovered/invented?
Of course, one of the biggest unsolved problems of our era is the lack of a clean, renewable and efficient source of energy. But, maybe, finding a cure for the cancer could be even more important. Currently, research has lead to significant improvement in therapies and in diagnostic, but cancer it's still far from be defeated.

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