10 Questions with Allison Reinsvold Hall
Allison Reinsvold Hall, 25, from the U.S. is a master student at the University of Notre Dame in the U.S..
She studies experimental particle physics as part of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment using the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN.
Allison is a participant of the 66th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting which is dedicated to the field of physics in 2016.
Enjoy the interview with Allison and get inspired:
- What inspired you to pursue a career in physics / STEM?
I chose to pursue a career in physics because it is fun. Physics is challenging, but being able to advance humanity’s knowledge of how the world works is one of the most rewarding enterprises.
- Who are your role models?
My biggest role models are my parents. Through their examples, they have shown me everything I needed to be successful: hard work, creativity, kindness, and perseverance.
- How did you get to where you are in your career path?
I’ve only made it this far in physics from the support of my peers. My classmates and colleagues have always been my biggest support system in physics. Having friends I can complain to, commiserate with, and get advice and encouragement from is how I get through the tough homework assignments, difficult professors, research dead ends, and long hours that everyone who wants to pursue a career in STEM will have to face at some point.
- What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
My current research is the coolest project I have ever worked on. I use the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) detector at the LHC to search for evidence of supersymmetry. The LHC is an incredible feat of technical skill, international cooperation, and creative vision, and it is amazing to be a part of this endeavor. Supersymmetry is also exciting, because it predicts that for every particle we’ve discovered, there is a corresponding supersymmetric particle still waiting to be found.
- What’s a time you felt immense pride in yourself / your work?
One of my favorite parts of being a physicist is being able to share my research with others. Every time someone asks me what I do, and I get to say that I am a scientist who works on one of the experiments at CERN, I realize again how cool my job is, and how lucky I am to be able to work on the cutting edge of human knowledge.
- What is a “day in the life” of Allison like?
Most of my work is performed in my office on a laptop. Through the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid, I can access and analyze data that is stored anywhere from Estonia to Nebraska. Every week I have meetings with my analysis group, which includes collaborators working at Fermilab, Florida State University, CERN, and even Athens, Greece.
- What are you seeking to accomplish in your career?
My primary career goal is to become a physics professor. This would allow me to combine my passions for teaching and research and continue to advance the field while educating the next generation of scientists.
- What do you like to do when you’re not doing research?
When I’m not doing research, I enjoy hanging out with friends and family, playing board games, working on puzzles, or watching hockey with my husband, Matt.
- What advice do you have for other women interested in physics / STEM?
Go for it! Don’t worry about the people who don’t think you can do it; go out there and do it anyway and prove them wrong. Have confidence in yourself, and don’t be afraid to fail.
- In your opinion, what will be the next great breakthrough in physics research?
I may be biased, but I think the next breakthrough in physics is going to come from one of the experiments at the Large Hadron Collider. With the huge increase in energy from 8 TeV to 13 TeV in 2015, and with all of the data that is going to be taken in 2016, I think we are about to make a new, exciting discovery that will change the way we think about interactions at the most fundamental level.
What should be done to increase the number of female professors of physics?
To increase the number of female physics professors, I think we need to work on removing people’s implicit biases against women and minorities in the field. Outright discrimination and bias towards women or minorities is no longer common, but the unconscious biases people, including women, hold can be surprisingly harmful. Continuing to call attention to these unconscious biases and putting procedures in place to safeguard against them, especially in competitive situations such as grant proposals and applications for tenure-track faculty jobs, would go a long way toward improving the position of women in STEM.