Sexism, Racism and Homophobia in Physics: Former Cern Particle Physicist Shares Her Experiences of a Career in Science

What were Albert Einstein’s first wife’s contributions to his extraordinary productivity in the beginning of his career? Why are sexism, homophobia and racism still so prevalent in physics? In two separate upcoming talks hosted by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS), former CERN particle physicist and author Dr Pauline Gagnon will explore the answers to these questions.

In her opening talk, ‘What’s wrong with me?’, on Friday, 26th January at 6.30 pm, Dr Gagnon will share her own personal experiences of working at CERN where, of the 112 nationalities working there, approximately 80% of them are white, and 80% are male. Dr. Gagnon will examine why people from so many various groups have been historically excluded from physics and suggest a series of easily applicable measures that could improve diversity in physics. This talk will take place at DIAS, Burlington Road and is being held in partnership with the Institute of Physics.

Dr Gagnon’s second talk, entitled ‘The tragic destiny of Mileva Mari? Einstein’, will take place Monday, 29th January at 7 pm at DIAS, Burlington Road. Examining the biography of Mileva Mari? Einstein, love letters between Mileva and Albert along with publications about her life and work, Dr Gagnon will reveal the work of this forgotten physicist.

Speaking about the visit of Dr Gagnon, Dr Eucharia Meehan, CEO and Registrar of DIAS, said, “Being able to host world-renowned researchers such as Dr Gagnon at DIAS and hearing her insights will be a great opportunity for the physics community in Ireland. We work hard to ensure that there is diversity right across our schools and are always open to learning how we can improve this. Diversity amongst our researchers not only benefits them personally but benefits the research eco-system overall, ensuring that Ireland attracts and retains top talent in the research world.”

Also commenting on the visit by Dr. Gagnon, Brendan Owens, Public Engagement Manager, Institute of Physics (IOP) said, “The IOP is proud to support Dr. Pauline Gagnon speaking to the physics and physics teaching community about her personal journey in physics, barriers faced, and advice to create a more inclusive space for everyone. The IOP is on a journey to create a more inclusive and diverse physics community for society and representative of it. We believe one of the best ways of doing so is to showcase role models that drive home personal stories that we can all learn from and be inspired by”.

Dr. Pauline Gagnon was born in Chicoutimi in Quebec, Canada, in 1955. She taught physics in local colleges before completing a PhD in particle physics at the University of California in Santa Cruz. Dr. Gagnon worked as a Senior Research Scientist with Indiana University at CERN, where she participated in the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012. She joined the CERN communication group, writing blogs and explaining particle physics in simple and accessible terms to media outlets worldwide.

In 2014, Dr Gagnon wrote a popular science book called “Who Cares about particle physics: Making Sense of the Higgs Boson, the Large Hadron Collider and CERN”. She retired in 2014 and has since given more than 150 presentations to audiences worldwide, talking about physics, diversity issues and Mileva Mari? Einstein. She is currently writing a screenplay for a mini-series on Mileva Mari? Einstein and other women in science.

Registration for Dr. Pauline Gagnon’s talks is now live. Both talks are free to attend, but advance booking is required. To book, visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/cc/pauline-gagnon-at-dias-2980289