Focus on: Caterina Deplano

Iva Raynova

ALICE's third run manager

Caterina is a Technical Research Scientist at the National Institute for Subatomic Physics (NIKHEF) in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. For the past year and a half she has been working in ALICE as system run coordinator of the Silicon Strip Detector (SSD). She also works on the upgrade of the Inner Tracking System (ITS). “I am the reference person for the SSD at CERN. I am responsible for making sure that the detector is working properly and I take care of organising all the operations and activities. I have to solve the possible problems related to it, therefore one of my duties is also taking on-call shifts.”

Before joining the collaboration, she spent three years as a fellow in the CERN beam instrumentation group. “I was part of a team which had the task to develop the read-out electronics upgrade for the beam position monitors of the SPS. I worked on the architecture design and I was trying to find a new way to read the data. The idea was to change the set-up completely.” Her PhD she did in LHCb, developing instrumentation for calibration and monitoring of the experiment's muon detector, a project that she also followed during her postdoc.

When she was invited to play the role of run manager, Caterina thought that it would be an interesting and useful experience. “This is more difficult than coordinating my detector, because here there are more components. Every piece works in a different way, so I had to learn a lot of things. Also, there are more people involved and as run manager I need to contact each different group, to find a way to share the information and to prepare the instructions for the operation in order to get a smooth data acquisition.”

Caterina's passion for science originates from her childhood. “I have loved astronomy and astrophysics ever since I was a child. I wanted to know where we came from and how everything works. I was fascinated by the stars, by the fact I could see the past, something that probably no longer exists. In high school I became fascinated with physics itself, with its laws.”

Later on, while following her Masters, she joined a group developing hardware for LHCb detectors. That is when she realised that she greatly enjoys solving problems and finding different ways to make things work. “What I like in the electronics and in the lab work in general is the fact that you can actually control your system. You can see and touch what you have created and you know what is your personal contribution to the whole idea.”

Caterina is a mother of two children and most of her free time she spends with her family. When she finds some time for herself, she prefers to do sports. “It is difficult for me to stay at rest” – she says and it is evident. Caterina is a part of the CERN taekwondo team. Since December 2015 she has a black belt and recently she won two medals in a competition. Although she sees the combats as the perfect way to discharge the stress, her favourite thing are the defined patterns of defence-and-attack motions, called poomsae. “Here it is all about perfection. I can focus my energy on fighting against my limits. The two parts are completely different, but they go together in martial arts, and I like both of them.” 

Alice Matters