Particles and professionals

TRU student and CERN intern considers how she’ll enter the workforce

Mark Hendricks, Science & Technology Editor Ω

Hedrich spent her summer working at CERN, the largest particle physics research facility in the world. Photo courtesy Natascha Hedrich

Hedrich spent her summer working at CERN, the largest particle physics research facility in the world. Photo courtesy Natascha Hedrich

Gaining employment in the sciences can be difficult. Without going back for further education after getting a bachelor’s degree, the employment options can seem very limited. However, there are still many interesting jobs available to students after and even during education.

Natascha Hedrich is a 22-year-old physics and math double major who is currently in her final year of studies. During the summer of 2013, Hedrich interned at CERN, which straddles the border of France and Switzerland.

“CERN is the European center for particle physics research,” Hedrich said. “It’s designed for doing fundamental research in particle physics, looking at the things that make up everything around us.”

CERN is one of the most advanced research facilities in the world. It uses the Large Hadron Collider to accelerate particles to near the speed of light.

“They smash these particles together and see what new particles come out of there,” Hedrich said. “You’re dealing with such high energy levels that you’re getting close to the big bang.”

Hedrich’s internship was as much educational as it was hands-on research. The mornings would be spent attending lectures taught by staff working at CERN on various aspects of particle physics, while the afternoons would be spent working on their individually assigned projects.

“I think the number one benefit you get is the connections you make. It’s really amazing when you see these people that you read about in textbooks walking around the halls,” Hedrich said. “I’d highly recommend an internship to anyone, any of them will help you figure out if this is something that you really want to do.”

The internship also helped cement Hedrich’s plan to go for a master’s degree in Europe, both for her own personal growth as well as better job prospects.

During the second half of the day Hedrich would be engaged with hands on research work. For Hedrich this was creating computer programs to sort through data. Photo courtesy Natascha Hedrich

During the second half of the day Hedrich would be engaged with hands on research work. For Hedrich this was creating computer programs to sort through data. Photo courtesy Natascha Hedrich

“It used to be that people who went through university, that was pretty impressive. Now more people are going through university, and that’s fantastic, but it also means more people have their bachelor’s, so now they’re looking for even more,” Hedrich said. “The actual employees of CERN, most of them had their master’s or PhDs.”

Hedrich and her fellow students at TRU seem to realize the importance of further education after receiving their bachelor’s degree.

“I want to go into teaching at the University, doing research and that kind of thing, so in that case it definitely helps to have a master’s or a PhD because it’s so competitive now for those positions,” Hedrich said. “Most of my friends are looking at more education after their bachelor’s.”

Despite this, Hedrich is not daunted by the prospect of finding employment after her education is finished.

“I think there’s lots of jobs out there, but a lot of people don’t realize it,” Hedrich said. “I also think that people get stuck on just one thing, instead of keeping an open mind to different opportunities.”