15 December 2008 | By
Anna Kaczmarska is an artistic Polish physicist working as a software developer of the official ATLAS software package designed to detect tau leptons. Since Anna was a teenager, she has loved medieval arts: literature, architecture and music, whose rhythms, she says, help her to program ATLAS software.
Anna’s artistic interests go well beyond the medieval, as she is also very interested in abstract painting. Her favourite artists are Bosch, Kandinsky and Miró. Anna also likes Van Gogh a lot, but she would not hang any of his paintings on her walls: “I like to look at his painting in museums, but somehow they also make me feel distress.”
If her taste for the medieval arts and abstract painting seem far apart, or even incompatible, you may not be off in guessing Anna’s personality. “I always have a tendency to like extremes,” laughs Anna.
When she has some time, Anna tries to imitate her favourite artists turning into an amateur painter. As a child, she wanted to become a painter, but she ended up studying physics, which she does not regret at all: “I can still paint in my free time,” she says.
Anna has always been a very curious person, she remembers her parents having problems handling her endless list of inquiries. “I wanted to know what everything was made of; how the world was built. That’s why I finally became a particle physicist,” she says with a smile.
Anna studied physics at Jagiellonian University in Poland, and did her PhD at the Institute of Particle Physics in Krakow on identification of low energy electrons on ATLAS. Later on, she changed topic, working for one year on gravitational fields at Annecy in France. But she came back to ATLAS again when she returned to Poland to work as a research assistant for three years.
In 2004, Anna moved to Paris for two years thanks to a European Union Marie Curie fellowship. “I had a great time in Paris at a professional and personal level,” she recalls. After returning to Poland, she obtained a permanent research position at the Institute of Particle Physics in Krakow.
Now, besides working as a software developer, Anna is also interested in processes involving tau leptons, which hopefully will be seen in the early LHC data: “I’m looking forward to next year!” she says.
Anna is not happy about the situation of science in her home country: “Scientists get really low salaries, and it’s difficult to attract good students into the country or to retain them,” she explains.
Later in her career, Anna got interested in science popularisation in Poland. The country has a long tradition in organising science festivals to bring science to the public. “I have the feeling that most people don’t understand the workings of science, and physics is a particularly tough subject.”
When news on the LHC black holes made newspapers headlines around the world, Anna felt that some people were really scared. “We, particle physicists, have the duty to explain our job to people in order to allay fears,” she says. Let’s hope that when the LHC restarts next year, the public interest in the LHC will resume, giving her plenty of opportunities to explain what our field is about.