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Thinking outside of the box

At ITER, Barbara's job is to check the design of the ITER blanket against calculations, in order to verify that the interfaces all concord. (Click to view larger version...)
At ITER, Barbara's job is to check the design of the ITER blanket against calculations, in order to verify that the interfaces all concord.
In high school, Barbara Calcagno's favourite subjects were Latin, Greek and the humanities. Then why did she choose to become an engineer? For the challenge, of course, and also because engineering seemed to be the best ticket to an international career—something she'd had in mind since she was a teenager in Genoa, Italy.

Barbara is a mechanical engineer, with a particular interest in hydraulics and thermal engineering issues. She enjoys thinking outside of the box. "Sometimes, my broader interests in physics allow me to come up with solutions that are outside of the traditional realm of mechanical engineering," she explains.

Barbara was able to find balance between engineering, physics and international travel from the start of her career. She left Italy after her engineering studies at the University of Genoa to complete her final thesis at CERN's Neutrino Beam Experiment. For a new engineer, the variety of engineering opportunities at CERN was exciting; Barbara went on to work as a mechanical engineer for the ATLAS project, and as an Engineering Fellow at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). She perfected her English and French during her time in Geneva, and—through friends—learned Spanish.

"Life was relatively easy in a clean, well-organized city like Geneva, full of expats like me. But after nearly six years, I felt ready to get back in touch with the 'real' world," says Barbara. Attracted by Barcelona's climate, she accepted an engineering position at the ALBA synchrotron light facility. But as the most experienced engineer in her field, she quickly felt as though the learning opportunities at that facility were limited.

It was 2006, and the ITER Project was beginning to recruit in the south of France. "I applied to the first two positions that opened in my field, even if they weren't perfectly adapted to me. I wasn't successful, but I knew I wanted to work at ITER!" says Barbara. Not one to back down from a challenge, she made the move to Provence, and in July 2007, started at ITER on a temporary contract in the Vacuum Vessel Section. This past summer, Barbara was recruited for an ITER position in the Blanket Section.

At ITER, Barbara has a job that she loves. As Design Engineer/Analyst, she is part of a team that is checking the design of the ITER blanket against calculations, in order to verify that the very complex interfaces all concord. "I love being part of an international team," says Barbara. "The work is intense, and I'm learning from specialists in every field." In her spare time, she enjoys life in the countryside, writing, reading and ... as always ... travel.

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