#WomenonWednesdays: Elizabeth Pasatembou

Today we’re really excited to bring you an interview with Elizabeth Pasatembou, a PhD student in the High Energy Physics group!

Describe your path into physics, what kickstarted it?

Growing up in a small town in Cyprus, I did not have any connection with science, let alone physics. I grew up being a very curious child, always exploring my surroundings, asking a lot of “whys”, and generally loved learning new things, curious about what could be beyond the small town I was raised in. I commuted to the “big city” for high school and was lucky enough to have great science teachers who sparked my interest in science. I did not consider a career in physics, or barely knew what that was, until I started my physics GCSE. I will be forever grateful to the first physicist I have ever met who happened to be my physics teacher who believed in me and inspired me to continue my physics journey. I never felt like an outlier in his classes, being one of the very few girls and that was very encouraging. The more I studied physics the more I loved it and decided to pursue physics, moving to an even bigger city, London to follow my dreams. I am now a first generation graduate having graduated with an MSci degree in Physics and an MSc in Space Science and Engineering from UCL.

What is the topic of your PhD?

I am now part of the High Energy physics group and more specifically part of the AION (Atom Interferometry Observatory and Network) project. The aim it to build a detector using quantum technologies to detect dark matter (DM) and gravitational waves (GW). To do this we need to cool atoms down to very low temperatures to fire them into an atom interferometer, observing the effect that the DM and GW have on the atoms in the atom interferometer.

During your journey, what was your experience being a woman in Physics?

During high school, even though I was one of the few girls in my class, I was never made to believe that physics is not for me just because of my gender by my teachers. The more I progress in physics however the more apparent this gap is becoming. It was hard to find role models I could identify with. It has not been an easy journey but I am fortunate to have had some great mentors along this journey, including my female personal tutors at UCL. A lot of the times I am the only woman in the room but reminding myself that that should not stop me from doing what I love is what keeps me going. I also find great motivation in aspiring to one day be a role model for younger girls and show them that they can do whatever they set their minds to.

What advice would you give to your undergrad/first year postgrad self?

Do not compare yourself to others! Everyone’s journey is unique, just do what you love and do not forget to have fun along the way! Also celebrate the small wins, be your own cheerleader and do not forget to take dedicate some time for yourself and doing other things you enjoy. Last but not least, reach out to people, find a mentor and do not hesitate to ask for help when you need it, people are more willing to help than you think.

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