by Panos Charitos. Published: 16 November 2013

In the beginning of November, Claudio Bortolin guided a group of 40 people in the ALICE cavern. The group travelled from the province of Treviso (Italy) to visit CERN and part of their tour included a visit to ALICE.

However, while filling in the impact form, Claudio realized that there was something special about this group. Giulia (Giuliana) Della Bella, one of the participants, was born in 1918! The 95-year-old lady’s passion for science inspired her to travel for eight hours on a bus to CERN and have an underground visit to one of the LHC experiments.

Giuliana was born 10 June, 1918 and from an early age she developed a strong interest in science. Following her passion, she decided to study Pure Chemistry in the University of Padova. Although Giuliana didn't graduate -she still has to pass one exam and submit her missing thesis, at that time (1946) the formal title didn't make a real difference and as Claudio affirms “she is an expert on Chemistry”. The same passion led her to travel all the way to Geneva and to go underground to see with her eyes the ALICE detection system and understand how physicists measure particles created from the collisions at the LHC.


Claudio Bortolin and Giuliana Della Bella following Guiliana's visit to the ALICE cavern.


This visit has been extremely significant for Bortolin. He explains how motivating has been to know that an old person comes to visit the laboratory and the experiments and he adds: “this means that what we are doing here is really important to people. For me it was a real pleasure to guide this group.”

Giuliana’s sharp questions during the visit and her passion for learning resemble the enthusiasm of a teenager for exploring new worlds; she rightly signed the underground form as “Giuliana 95 like a teenager!”. Her example reminds me that the quest for knowledge is one thing that never ages but instead is what can keep you always as a child.

As Stephen Hawking once phrase it: “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feel. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don't just give up.”

It seems that this has been a unique visit for the group that didn’t miss the chance to share the excitement with the guides. In a sentimental tone they stressed that “young researchers can give a hope for a better future” and CERN is a proof of what young people can achieve in a stimulating research environment. Perhaps, a slightly neglected statement that we should try harder to remind to ourselves and to the general public.

Claudio Bortolin has been working with ALICE for the past five years. As from September 2013 he moved to the ATLAS Collaboration to face new challenges and make a new professional experience. The time that he spent working with ALICE has been one of the most enjoyable and fruitful periods in his career; not only for the knowledge that he gained but also for the opportunity to meet and make new friendships with great people. We wish him all the best in his new career.