TRIUMF, Canada's National Laboratory for Particle and Nuclear Physics, recently appointed particle physicist Nikolitsa "Lia" Merminga as the new Head of it's Accelerator Division, "one of Canada's most senior scientific posts".
Merminga spoke to the Vancouver Courier about growing up in Greece. Her love for science was stimulated by a young female physics teacher:
"She impressed me so much and she became my role model at that very sensitive age. Somehow my vague interest in science was solidified during that year," Merminga said.She feels that attending all-girl middle and high schools helped her build up confidence, so that her arrival at the University of Athens - where less than 10% of the physics students were women - wasn't as intimidating as it could have been. However, she doesn't believe that separate schools for boys and girls is necessarily the answer to stimulating girls' interest in science careers:
"I also had a love for math. I loved mathematics, and to me, the fact that I could use mathematical models to describe physical phenomena was very powerful," she added. "I had the framework to explain physical phenomena and predict more extreme conditions, if you like."
"The answer is more to share with boys and girls all together at a young age the excitement of doing science, of doing physics, and to show them the ties of science with everyday life," she said. "And also that it's a means of answering some very fundamental questions."Merminga ultimately came the United States, where she earned masters degrees in physics and mathematics, and a PhD in physics from the University of Michigan. Her subsequent research has made her "widely recognized for expertise in identifying problems and solutions associated with the push for higher energy, higher quality accelerator beams, and developing concepts for new accelerators." She is currently the Director of the Center for Advanced Studies of Accelerators (CASA) at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Virginia.
Tags: Nikolitsa Merminga, particle physics, Canada