Women of the year, Argentina

15 December 2008

Tere Dova with graduate students from La Plata University (UNLP) and Buenos Aires University (UBA). From front to back: Tere Dova, Gaston Romeo (UBA), Martin Tripiana (UNLP), Laura Gonzalez Silva (UBA) y Xabier Anduaga (UNLP)

It’s not every day ATLAS members win prizes at national level, recognising their work on physics. Last week, María Teresa Dova, a collaborator from La Plata University (UNLP) in Argentina, had the privilege of receiving the Argentinean award given to the “Year’s Outstanding Woman” or “Mujer Destacada del año”, in Spanish. She was elected among twenty nominees by the parliament representatives for her work in High Energy Physics.

Teresa, or Tere as her friends call her, feels very proud to have been chosen among the excellent candidates. ”Argentina has a harsh social reality. The other nominees were women doing such great work for society: social workers, lawyers, writers, so the prize came as a big surprise!” Tere concedes.

“The recognition was an honour, it is a prize to many years of work, but it is also a recognition for science at large, for the scientists who are not famous, like me, and this sort of recognition is not something frequent in Argentina,” she adds.

Tere earned her Physics degree at La Plata National University of Argentina, and started working on experiments at CERN in 1990.  When Tere returned to Argentina in 1992, she established the High Energy Physics and Cosmics Rays group at UNLP. The group first worked on the L3 experiment and later on, the Auger Observatory. They joined the ATLAS Collaboration in 2006.

“At the beginning we didn’t have any institutional support, but somehow the universe conspired so that Argentina could join ATLAS. There has been numerous ATLAS physicists who helped us join the collaboration, it would be an endless list, I’m very grateful to all of them,” she says.

Two of her three graduate students on ATLAS are based at CERN, thanks to funding coming from the High Energy Physics Latin American Network, the HELEN programme, supported by the European Union. The programme will come to an end this December, without the possibility to extend it.

“HELEN was crucial to enable Latin American countries to participate in the construction of the LHC and the experiments,” she says.

In April 2009, the PhD students on Tere’s group will go back to Argentina, but Tere hopes to obtain  funds necessary to send them for short periods at CERN from April on. “Students are the motor of everyday work. In Argentina there are not many resources for science, so students have to put up with harsh conditions sometimes in order to carry out their work; I’m very proud of them,” Tere explains.

It is very important, Tere points out, that Latin American countries can count on economic aid, both national and foreign, to secure physics students participation in high energy physics experiments in Europe. Later on, they can use their knowledge when they return to their home countries to help the field to grow.

The creation of the Science and Technology Ministry in Argentina, under the command of Dr Lino Barañao, himself a former scientist, has been seen as a positive step towards the consolidation of the scientific system in Argentina. “His support has helped Argentina participate in ATLAS, but we are very far from developed countries, especially in researchers’ mobility,” Tere explains.

Now that the HELEN program is coming to an end, Tere and her team will need to obtain the money to travel to CERN from the Argentinean government. “It won’t be easy, but somehow we’ll manage,” she states. “We are scientists used to work with a scarcity of means, so when something bad happens, we manage to find other ways, we get depressed less often!” she laughs.

Tere is now working on establishing a national GRID project in Argentina. “I like to initiate new projects, so that young physicists have access to a variety of state-of-the-art work possibilities.” Tere is very ambitious, and despite all the obstacles, she would like to see Argentina achieve remarkable things in science “There is no roof!” she likes to say.


Cristina Jimenez

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