"Whatever our contribution, be it working towards CERN's scientific endeavour or that of ESA, we all play a role working for something greater than ourselves - Science!". 

CERN Alumna Maria Carmen Mordo Testa in front of CERN ATLAS cooling towers
CERN Alumna Maria Carmen Mordo Testa in front of CERN ATLAS cooling towers
CERN Alumna:

Maria Carmen Morodo Testa


From 1999 to 2004, Telecommunications Engineer in the Cooling & Ventilation Group of the Technical Services Department (ST). 

Today: At the European Space Agency (ESA) where she is Launch Range Programmatic Support Officer in the Directorate of Space Transportation and is working on the project for the launch base of the future Ariane 6 launcher. 


From Barcelona to Geneva

Originally from Barcelona and having completed her studies as a telecommunications engineer at the Polytechnic University in that city, Carmen began her professional career in a multinational company  in the agro-food sector. She specialized in automation systems, control systems and alarms, whilst preparing an MBA. 
It was on the university walls that she spotted an advertisement for a position at CERN. To her surprise, it corresponded almost word for word to the position she held at the time, but in a completely different sector: CERN's Cooling and Ventilation Group.  So why not? A staff position is offered for a period of 3 years.

At CERN, I was able to shape my position to the best out of myself 

During her first CERN at CERN, Carmen learns the ropes in the Surveillance & Operations group. This involves equipping the Technical Infrastructure Control Room (TCR) to allow 24-hour operation surveillance. "This year was very formative because I was able to get an overview of the technical infrastructure.” Then she joins the Cooling & Ventilation group with her planned assignment. "I was able to bring with me, from my experience in the industry, a greater awareness of the importance of cost management and meeting deadlines," says Carmen.
"At CERN, I discovered the importance of being open to different paths and different ways of thinking. It is a richness because it teaches us to ask questions from another angle and to allow ourselves different answers.”
"During my 5th year, in 2004, with a reasonable prospect of an open-ended contract but without its firm confirmation, I began to think about the future. It is true that we had entered an end-of-project blues phase because the technical infrastructure for the LHC was being finalized, and jobs in this sector were scarce. “ 
 "I first thought long and hard about the type of environment in which I wanted to work and quickly concluded that such an environment should let me make my mark and give the best of myself.  I had been spoiled by my position and my projects, so I decided that it would be either CERN or a sister international organization that would also give me the opportunity to take ownership of my work and shape it.”

Only one job application and it was to be for ESA

With this very clear objective in mind, Carmen sends a single application for an open position at ESA, in the launcher department, where she believes that, despite her lack of experience in the space field, she has the required skills and profile. She prepares herself carefully by documenting ESA's launch activities and their challenges, and demonstrates, during a long job interview, that she is able to assimilate the necessary knowledge, form her own opinion and, above all,  defend it. The position was offered to her and Carmen had to make a very difficult decision. "I didn't know of course if I was making a good choice and if I was afraid of closing doors. The Department Head at CERN had confirmed I had the possibility to stay at CERN with an open-ended contract.... But, my interest was already piqued by the launchers!” 

Without LHC no physics, without Ariane 5 no launching!

"So I joined ESA in 2005, at an exciting time. After the failure in 2002 of the first flight of an Ariane 5 launcher in its ECA version, it took several years for ESA to demonstrate that the problem had been fully identified and resolved.  For ESA this period was similar to the period following the 2008 LHC accident, with no LHC physics and no Ariane 5 launch steps. But in 2005, the activity resumed in great excitement with the return of Ariane 5 ECA to flight.”
"I trained on the job and largely thanks to a "work- meeting" technique that allows small teams to be fast and share knowledge and experience effectively on a specific objective.  We think about it together aloud, sometimes for a whole day!”
Carmen does not hesitate to change positions at ESA, taking into account mainly her technical interests, without giving too much importance to opportunities for hierarchical promotion, often penalized by internal mobility. She does not regret it: "The fact that I have had very diverse, development and operational activities, as well as strategic activities (I am working on the Ariane 6 design project) now allows me to have a very valuable overview within ESA.”

CERN Alumni, a concrete link with CERN  

"I am very happy with the launch of the CERN Alumni network. It is rather uncommon to have alumni programs that bring together people who have worked - and not just studied - somewhere, the CERN Alumni network is exceptional in this respect. We can stay informed of CERN's activities via social networks, but CERN Alumni, through its dedicated interactive web space and communications, really forges a link and a sense of belonging to a community.  If ESA started its alumni network, there would be many possible synergies! “

Back at CERN for Web@30

We had the pleasure of meeting Carmen on her return to CERN on March 12 to follow the debates organized CERN's 30th anniversary of the Web celebrations. "It was a fantastic event, I was surprised by the content of the debates because I thought they would be essentially technical and maybe turned towards the past," she says. "But not at all, the panellists explored the societal impacts, the challenges posed from the point of view of humanity and the challenges of the future web. This further demonstrates the open-mindedness of this Organization and the web is symbolic of the imprint of research that goes far beyond ourselves, far beyond the organization itself. Whatever our contribution, be it working towards CERN's scientific endeavour or that of ESA, we all play a role working for something greater than ourselves - Science!". 

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