Sunday 17 November 2019

My story: Lána Salmon, second year physics at UCD

'I visited NASA and realised at once that science was it for me'

Caught the science bug: Lána Salmon knew she wanted to study science from an early age. Picture by Damien Eagers
Caught the science bug: Lána Salmon knew she wanted to study science from an early age. Picture by Damien Eagers

Lána Salmon's interest in science was sparked by a family holiday in Florida, when they got the chance to visit the NASA space centre.

She was only nine at the time but "from the moment I walked in the door I was enthralled - I realised you could actually do this as a job".

As soon as the family returned home, Lána - a former pupil of St Wolstan's Community School, Naas, Co Kildare - got herself a telescope.

Throughout her childhood her love of science continued, telescopes were upgraded and whilst in school, she joined Astronomy Ireland.

As CAO application time approached, Lána was stuck between engineering, science and computer science for her choice of college course, and it was her attendance at a UCD Open Day that gave her a real understanding of what she should pursue.

"It was after speaking to students and faculty members in maths and physics that I realised exactly what I wanted to do," she said.

One of the things that appealed to Lána about UCD was its Horizons programme, which allowed her to do a degree in physics, while also taking modules in computer science and engineering.

She is now in second year physics and among the highlights of university life so far was meeting science commentator, Professor Brian Cox, when he opened the O'Brien Science Centre at UCD.

Cox has been a regular presenter of science programmes on BBC for years and is a multi-award winner for his work in communicating science to general audiences.

Lána is among his most avid fans: "He is the person who made me want to study science."

Her enthusiasm for her subject extends to membership of the UCD Physics Society. They organise visits to the research institute CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, home of the Large Hadron Collider, the giant underground machine that scientists hope can help them to understand the fundamental structure of the universe.

"You don't get the opportunity to do that every day," said Lána.

Irish Independent

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