Date of the interview
What motivated you to study Science Communication and Bionics at Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences?
In fact, I didn't know about the programme before. I wanted to study Mechanical Engineering so I started the freshman programme at the “Studienkolleg” in Bedburg-Hau. Halfway through, I realised that I don't want to study engineering. But because I was an international student, it was not so easy to change into programmes from other faculties. Then I found out about science communication. I like to say that at that point my bachelor programme chose me, I didn't choose it. It was perfect because it had some science in it, so it was still part of the Faculty of Technology and Bionics, but it had communications as well. That's what I really wanted to study. So I came to know about Science Communication and Bionics by talking to professors, but it wasn’t my first choice initially. It happened to me.
Your current job title: Social Media Manager at CERN. Please tell us about the path you took to this career.
It all started at HSRW for sure: the first thing was studying science communication, as we had to do internships and projects in the programme. I started interning at Deutsche Welle as a science journalist because I always loved writing and making blogs. So I acquired some early experience there. Later on, I was searching for an organisation for the internship semester and exploring different opportunities. One alumna of the programme, who is working at CERN, introduced me to this particular internship opportunity. I applied, got the internship, completed my thesis there, and was employed as a working student in their student programme. After my thesis wrapped up, there was an open position. I applied and ultimately got the job.
What was the topic of your thesis?
I studied the best ways to communicate science through videos. The actual topic was accelerating engagement through CERN videos, and it involved looking at videos CERN has produced on Facebook over the last two years. During the pandemic, lots of people started watching videos and I think it's interesting, especially for a scientific organisation, to know how to make use of video trends in order to teach or share physics and other scientific content effectively.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
So that's the good thing about working in social media: my workday varies a lot. It’s very dynamic, very news dependent. If there is a big news, for example a new particle has been discovered, it's a lot more work. So there is no “typical” day. But really, it always comes down to chasing physics news. We have lots of editorial meetings where we meet communication officers from different experiments at CERN and they tell us what’s new, or what’s coming up. And then we plan lots of digital campaigns. For example, next on the list is Dark Matter Day which is planned for Halloween. Our goal for this campaign is to make use of Halloween on CERN social media channels and communicate science by using this hook in a fun way. This involves going to the lab, going to the experiments, recording and editing videos. There is also lots of coordination with other physics labs across the world, because CERN is just one lab among many: there’s Fermilab in the USA, KEK in Japan, DESY in Germany and so on. So we also communicate with them, screen what’s happening in the news, and develop a plan together.
What do you like most about your job?
I like the diversity of it, in terms of meeting so many people on an everyday basis, so I never stop learning about CERN. But my absolute favourite part is being the voice and face of the organisation. Whenever we have a milestone coming up, I do some Instagram lives. And then I’m the CERN host. So it’s like my moment to talk to people who are usually missed on our screen. But during these Instagram lives, I get to see people and their reactions and represent CERN. That’s very thrilling for me. Any given broadcast could see 10,000 to 40,000 viewers so the adrenaline rush is huge. Every notification gives me a dopamine rush.
Which skills did you acquire during your studies that are particularly useful for your career?
We had a professor who had worked as a journalist for the New York Times, and he had lots of journalistic experience globally. Getting this journalistic background knowledge from him was really useful and we wrote lots of articles. And of course working for the university magazine “Catcher on the Rhine”. I think that was the one thing I’m using a lot in my job. The editorial experience during science communication was an asset, as was the internship aspect because it gave me the opportunity to apply all these skills. The internship periods at HSRW really helped.
Which advice do you have for our students?
Engage with your professors. That’s what really helped me establish a network of opportunities. They gave really useful feedback for CVs, too. So talking to your professors is definitely something you should do. And if you have some passions, try to connect them to your studies, even if they’re not already included in the curriculum. That’s what happened with me: when I started doing mechanical engineering I wasn’t happy, but I still continued writing my blogs. And then I found something where I could actually apply my passion. But before that I kept writing, irrespective of whether someone was reading it or not. So continue developing your passions as a student and you won’t regret it.
What is your favourite memory of your student life at Rhine-Waal University?
There are so many! One thing I really had fun doing at university was the Astronomy club. Kleve is a small town without many nightlife activities, so we started the Astronomy club as a student initiative and would go on these “star walks” at night. I remember we went to the Tiergarten once at night with our telescopes and I saw fireflies for the first time in my life. It was beautiful! I would definitely come back to Kleve just for the star walks that the Astronomy club organises.