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In love with nuclear physics

Lucia Crespo Campo

In love with nuclear physics

Lucía Crespo Campo asked so many questions in class at UC Berkeley that her teacher asked her to join him at the Lawrence Berkeley lab.

— Can you help me with a photo? I’ve been interviewed by the weekend magazine of El Mundo, and they need a portrait of me.

Lucía Crespo Campo is much sought after in her native country Spain. This summer she was awarded a prize for her Bachelor’s degree in science from her alma mater, the Complutense University in Madrid.

And in the end of September she will be heading for the Jóvenes Líderes Iberoamericanos (Young Ibero-American Leaders) event - a two-week conference where the 27 participants are chosen among students from 300 universities in the Spanish-speaking world.

The students are selected based on their academic merits, as well as social and leadership skills.

— Why do you think you were chosen?

— I’m passionate about physics, but I do a lot of other things as well. I like to get things done, I like to make a change, says Crespo Campo.

Dress code for physicists

– What would you like to change?

— I want girls to see science and engineering as possible and natural career choices. Take for instance the specific looks that a physicist is expected to have. I would like to challenge some clichés. It is worrying to see that there are few women in some majors, there is really no reason for that.

When I tell people I’m a nuclear physicist, their reaction is often: “Oh, that must be so hard.” No, absolutely not. Physics is easy and interesting. You have to work, of course, but most of all it is fun, she says.

Her first encounter with nuclear physics came during a year-long stay at Berkeley. It started when she posed so many questions in class that her lecturer Lee Bernstein invited her to take part in a project.

— A fantastic opportunity! she says.

– I fell in love with nuclear physics.

In the Lawrence Berkeley lab she met Sunniva Siem, head of the nuclear physics group in Oslo.

A researcher with stars in her eyes.

— Her eyes glowed when she told me about the Oslo cyclotron. A place where the researchers are that committed – I decided I want to work in a place like that, explains Crespo Campo.

3 years later she has a Master’s degree, is married to a Norwegian and has begun working on a PhD.

For her PhD, she shoots protons at nickel nuclei so that they warm up and emit gamma rays.

From these experiments she’s getting information on the structures of the atomic nuclei  - knowledge that gives clues about the formation of the elements in stars.

So when she isn’t engaged in science, what does she do?

— I’m a «devora libros» - I literally devour books! I prefer books that sound beautiful when you read them out loud, Crespo Campo says.

Márquez is one of her favourites, the spanish author Miguel Delibes another.

— I’m also very fond of being with my friends, going to cafés and dancing. I’m a social person - I’m not able to be alone for a long time.

Another thing she likes doing is coding with her husband. He’s a composer, and programming is part of his work.

 Physics and music have a lot more in common than you might think, says Lucía Crespo Campo.

 

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Lucía Crespo Campo

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