Achintya Rao

Science-Communication Wizard

Hi! My name is AchintyaMy name is spelt ಅಚಿಂತ್ಯ in Kannada and अचिन्त्य in the Devanagari script. and I write about science. You can find me online as “RaoOfPhysics”. I was born in 1987 in Bombay 🇮🇳 and grew up in New Bombay. I now live in Bristol 🇬🇧.

For over a decade, I was a science communicator at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.CERN is sometimes known as the European Laboratory for Particle Physics. Before that, I studied physics (BSc) at St Xavier’s College, Bombay 🇮🇳 and science journalism (MA) at City University London 🇬🇧.

I am pursuing a PhD in science communication from UWE Bristol, the University of the West of England, in Bristol 🇬🇧.

In what spare time I have, I enjoy watching and playing cricket 🏏, and reading and tinkering with technology.

I am a native speaker of English but Kannada is my mother tongue. I also speak Hindi/Urdu, Marathi, and a bit of French and Spanish (the former with a Genevan accent 🇨🇭 and latter with an Argentine one 🇦🇷).

Science Communication

I was as a science communicator at CERN between September 2010 and February 2021: for the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) collaboration until February 2018Here’s a Twitter thread with some of my highlights with CMS. and for CERN’s Education, Communication and Outreach group in the International Relations sector since March 2018. My work mainly involved writing about physics, accelerators, engineering and computing. As part of my job, I got to speak to a wide variety of people working at CERN and visit some of the laboratory’s most fascinating locations.

I spoke on the Ratio podcast about CERN and more, if you fancy a listen:

But if you are a more visual person, here’s a video of me speaking to Professor Lucie Green about CMS and particle physics:

I was an official CERN guide, and took hundreds of visitors on tours of the CMS experimental site located in Cessy 🇫🇷. I represented the International Relations sector at the CERN Diversity Office’s roundtable for two years.

Here are a few of the articles I’ve written for the CERN website:

I have had the privilege of writing for the CERN Courier on a few occasions:

As a freelancer, I had the occasional physics news article published in the magazine Physics World:

I also briefly wrote for Geneva Solutions. Here is a selection of my articles:

What could be more fun that being paid to read books? Here are some books I have reviewed:

Open Science

Over the years, I have become an advocate for open science“The opposite of open is not closed; the opposite of open is broken.” – John Wilbanks, particularly the use of free/libre and open-source software in research. I have contributed extensively to the CERN Open Data portal, and was involved in the first four releases of open data by CMS. You can watch me speak about the project at OpenCon 2016:

Research

Since January 2014, I have been working towards a PhD in science communication from UWE. My director of studies is Dr Emma Weitkamp.

I am studying the attitudes within the particle-physics community towards public engagement with science (or outreach), the factors that influence participation in such activities and barriers that prevent participation. My research focuses on the CMS collaboration, which has over 4000 people, including physicists, engineers, technicians, computer scientists and students.

Here’s a talk about preliminary results from my research that I gave at CERN, when I was unable to travel to Chicago for the ICHEP2016 conference in 2016 due to delays in processing my visa:

I am pursuing my PhD on a part-time, distance-learning basis, and hope to finish writing my thesis in 2021. The first three years of my studies were supported by the CERN doctoral-student programme.

My ORCID is 0000-0002-1628-2618.

Interests

I was trained in Indian classical music 🎶: Carnatic vocals for six years and the tabla for three years. Sometimes, I pick up a guitar and strum a few chords, or pretend to play the blues on my harmonica.

I enjoy watching, playing and generally following cricket 🏏 and I played for the CERN Cricket Club for a few years; I am a right-arm swing bowler and bat right-handed (usually at #11). Occasionally, I play table tennis 🏓 and have also trained a bit in martial arts 🥋 – karate and taekwondo.

I love tinkering with software and hardware, and my laptop runs Kubuntu 🐧. I am teaching myself the 🇷 language, mainly for my research, with the occasional sideways glance at Python 🐍 as well.

I contribute to the Mozilla 🦊 community: I hosted a couple of Mozilla Science Lab global sprints at CERN, started the (now-on-hiatus) Mozilla Study Group at CERN and mentored several projects as part of the Mozilla Open Leaders programme. If you want to learn more, you can read my interview for the StoryEngine project, conducted at MozFest a few years ago.

Contact

I can be found online on several platforms:

Alternatively, feel free to drop me an e-mail to achintya@achintyarao.in. My public-key fingerprint is 3B78 862A 0A60 3D7E 6A8A 1EE1 E76E B15E 4160 0AF4.