Ever since the launch of ALICE Matters, we have been presenting different members of the collaboration. For this issue we met with Natasha Sharma, the first person we focused on, for a follow-up on her journey through particle physics.
Five years ago, when she was interviewed by ALICE Matters for the first time, Natasha was a PhD student, working on data analysis. Since then she completed her PhD in the Panjab University in Chandigarh, India, after successfully defending her thesis, titled “Study of light nuclei (antinuclei) production and photon multiplicity detector in ALICE”. After that she became a postdoc, working for a year in the Institute of Physics, Bhubaneswar, India, and for another two in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, USA.
“I learned a lot in the past years. My understanding has increased. This is something I am very glad about. For example, as a postdoc I got the chance to learn about jets and correlations, something I did not work on during my PhD. I also travelled a lot and I met many people from different countries and cultures. Now I am back in India, working in the same place in which I was five years ago – Panjab University” – says Natasha.
Recently she received the Ramanujan fellowship, given by the Indian government to successful scientists working abroad, so that they could come back to their home country. This is something she is very happy about, since at that moment she was looking for a job. “The other great thing that this fellowship brought me was the chance to join my family in India – my husband and my four-year-old daughter.” One of the major changes in her life happened in December 2010, when she got married. A little more than a year later her daughter was born. “Unfortunately I had to be away from them for a year and a half in order to complete my postdoc in the USA. It is very hard for women to balance family and professional life. Being in science is always tough. You need family support and, luckily, I got it. Now I am extremely happy that I got this fellowship and that I managed to return back home.”
What hasn’t change for Natasha in the past years is her curiosity, her desire to work in the field of high-energy physics and to discover new things. “Everything in physics is about understanding. It is based on reasoning. There is logic behind everything and you can always ask questions. There is always a “why” pending. When you ask yourself that question, you get the answer. When you learn something, it is a very pleasant feeling. An even greater pleasure is to get a result you have worked very hard for. This way you enjoy it much more. If you get something very easily, you don’t know its value.”