CERN celebrates alumni impact at global online reunion

CERN alumni from across the globe united from 1 to 3 October for a major online reunion. The event was held within a digital recreation of the CERN site. Over 1000 people from 80 countries registered for the event, whose full title was “CERN Alumni Second Collisions: Research Matters”.

The event featured a range of exciting talks from fascinating speakers, including addresses from CERN Director-Generals past and present and an in-depth presentation of Science Gateway. There were presentations from CERN alumni on vaccine-transport technologies, treating cancer with particle beams, space exploration, thorium nuclear reactors, quantum-computing technologies, autonomous supply chains, tackling Parkinson’s disease, and more. Attendees were also treated to a special presentation on the captivating process undertaken by the visual-effects company DNEG, in collaboration with Nobel-Prize-winning physicist Kip Thorne, to create the special effects for the blockbuster film Interstellar.

The event featured a range of other activities as well, including a CERN-themed virtual escape game and an opportunity to meet members of CERN’s Management. On top of this, there were many opportunities to network or simply to catch up with old friends from the Laboratory. And there were virtual booths where attendees could learn about interesting CERN projects and exciting start-up companies, and discover new career opportunities.

“It was a great event,” says Nadine Weber, a former external member of the Alpha collaboration. “Thank you for providing us with these amazing opportunities to connect! I loved the talks and the networking opportunities – and especially the virtual platform! I really enjoyed participating!”

“I was thrilled to be at CERN again, albeit virtually,” says Alessandro Pasta, general manager at Diagramma SRL, who formerly worked at the DELPHI experiment. “Thank you for organising the Second Collisions event; the organising team did an amazing job!”

At the event, special prizes were awarded to CERN alumni who have had a significant positive impact on society. Awardees included people now working in teaching, climate-change research, public health and even science journalism.

“In the many different fields where CERN alumni contribute, they are all ambassadors for science, for a more science-literate society and for the values of science,” says Charlotte Warakaulle, CERN Director for International Relations, who also addressed attendees at the event. “The alumni network allows them to stay connected with CERN and with each other, maintaining the connection with the world of fundamental research that has helped to shape their professional trajectories.”

The event was the first major alumni reunion since the “First Collisions” event of early 2018. Since its launch in 2017, the CERN alumni network has gone from strength to strength: its rapid growth has seen the community reach over 7250 members today. The network offers members access to the latest news about CERN, tailored career opportunities and an easy way to keep in touch with friends from the Organization. The CERN Alumni team arranges thematic career events providing useful insights and guidance to those moving out of academia, as well as organising major reunion events like this one.

“The participants at “Second Collisions” reported that they were delighted to come back to CERN virtually,” says Rachel Bray, Head of the CERN Alumni Programme. “The combination of the platform, inspirational talks and networking has renewed their connection with CERN and their enthusiasm for the network. We’re all looking forward to “Third Collisions”, which we hope will be in person and at Science Gateway in 2024.”

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