by Ian Randall. Published: 27 May 2011

In this issue, ALICE Matters interviewed Melinda Siciliano – an arts-loving student from Torino who is doing her PhD with ALICE.

Melinda Siciliano

ALICE's Melinda Siciliano

Tell us about your PhD, here with ALICE.

At ALICE I work on the quality assurance in Data Quality Monitoring for the silicon drift detector. My PhD is mostly about quality assurance, but I also have to do some data analysis. Quality assurance is a framework that we have in ALICE, to check the data we collect - for the different processes we do on data, like reconstruction. We also use this online to check that the quality of the data we are taking is fine.

So what I do is to try to create some distribution which shows the status of the acquisition during the data taking - or how the output of the reconstruction was. After that we collect the data, we reconstruct, and some checks are applied that tell me if all the active modules are taking data - and if all is fine.

How long have you worked at ALICE?

The first time that I came here was the end of July 2007, and I stayed here for a year and a half, until February 2009. Then I came here during the summer of 2009 for three months; then I came back here in July 2010 - and I will be here until December.

The first year and a half I was here I worked on a developer project - about the quality assurance and DQM for the silicon drift detector - and then after that, I started my PhD.

What attracted you to Physics in the first place?

It was when I was fourteen - they told us about galaxies, and about atoms… I like the fact that, for example: if you go to the seaside and you look at the sea, at the waves - you can explain how it works.

During high school we sometimes had classes in the laboratory, and they explained some things... it was interesting – and you learn a lot of stuff at university - building on what you learnt at high school - and you begin to understand things more clearly. You know, you learn something, and then you just want to know more.

What are your plans for the future, after your PhD? Will you stay with ALICE?

After the PhD; I don't know. I would like to stay here - we'll have to see. For the moment, it is one step at a time - I’ll work and do my best.

So, you like it here at ALICE?

Yes, it’s wonderful. It's a nice place, with nice people. I like working here, because I can always learn new things - things that can improve my work. Even if sometimes I have some trouble, I can always find a way to solve the problem, whether alone or with the help of other people.

People here are very kind; very nice - you can talk to all of them. I've made a lot of friends here.

…and how do you like living here, near Geneva?

I like it a lot. There is a nice park, for when I go walking, and the lake - and it's easier to enjoy it now the days are longer.

I love watching the sunset on the lake - looking at the colours changing on the Jet d’eau.

I also love going to Plainpalais on Saturdays, because I have the possibility to go to the market there. You can find so many things there - like original edition books - I love to just browse. I also like looking at all the furniture – and imagining what I'd buy - if I had a home to put it in.

How do you spend your free time?

I like cooking, I like listening to music - from classical to modern. I used to play music - the piano in a blues group, we put on shows - it was fun, but I no longer have a piano, so I can't play. I also like going to see the opera, but I don’t do that often. I like to do a lot of reading - for example, different novels, in their original language: English, French or Italian.

I like to make jewelry - like the earrings I’m wearing - and I like to prepare things with beads, like making some Christmas decorations. I also like sewing - I don't do it so much now, but I used to make skirts with my mother, who is a tailor. It’s very useful, being able to sew, because if you lose a button you are able to attach it again!

I also love to tango - I have this friend, we go out to tango classes together.

So, you dance?

Yes; the tango. I started here soon after I first arrived – some people here from ALICE said “why don't you come to tango with us?” …and so I started taking lessons every week. While I was not here, I didn’t practice, but since I've been back, I've started on the course of the CERN dancing club.

I really like it. At the moment, I'm on the beginner’s course - so we can do the tango classic. Every week I learn something new, and the teacher is very nice. …and I've only stepped on my partner’s feet a few times; I’m quite proud of that!

It’s great fun - and you don't have to bring a partner, either - you can just go, and meet people; an advantage of this is that, if you don't always dance with the same person, you don't acquire bad habits.

What is it that appeals to you about dancing?

That you don't need to talk, to say 'do this', then 'do this' - but you just have to say which dance - and the person will understand what to do, and you can just do it together.

That and that you have to trust the other person - because if you dance with someone and you don't trust them, then you will not dance very well. You will end up losing steps and stepping on each other.

It's nice also that you have music as you move. Normally, I'm on the other side - I'm so used to playing music.