‘This prize is a great push for my self-esteem and motivation’
Not only does she excel at her research, she is also active in outreach and started a collaboration outside her own field during her PhD. Yevheniia Cheipesh has been awarded the first prize in the For Women in Science Rising Talent Prize by L’Oreal, UNESCO and the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities (KHMW) for her outstanding work.
Cheipesh reacts with a humble smile to the news that she has won the first place: ‘I actually kind of forgot about it. Winning is a very nice surprise, it confirms that I am going in the right direction. But it means even more to me to hear the appreciation of my promotor in his recommendation letter.’
Researching the universe at its infancy
‘I am particularly proud of my work on the PTOLEMY project’, says Cheipesh. ‘This project develops an experiment to detect relic neutrinos, which are particles that have been preserved unchanged since seconds after the big bang. It is incredibly challenging to detect them, but if we do, we learn a lot about the very first stage of the universe. As a theoretician, I help to improve the design of the experiment.’
Cheipesh is actually not a particle physicist, which makes her contribution even more remarkable. Professor Carlo Beenakker was her PhD promotor and recommended her for the prize: ‘I am very proud of her. This was not originally part of her promotion research. She took the initiative to talk with the PTOLEMY researchers and started the collaboration. This shows a certain maturity as a researcher. And then she discovered a flaw in the experiment design. Imagine that, a PhD candidate from a different field finding something like that in a consortium of dozens of researchers!’
Inspiring the next generation of scientists
Besides her academic achievements, Cheipesh is also active in outreach in her homeland Ukraine. ‘I teach a 1-week online course in physics for high school students three times per year. And this summer, I will give a summer school for refugees in Montenegro. I love communicating with kids about science and seeing how it motivates them.’ Beenakker sees the impact of her work: ‘She is definitely one of the persons that will be a role model during the rebuilding of the country after the war.’
The For Women in Science Rising Talent Prize is made possible by L’Oreal, UNESCO and the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities (KHMW). The aim of the prize is to advance the academic careers of young women researchers in the Netherlands holding a position as PhD candidate or postdoctoral fellow in STEM or Life Sciences. The three annual prizes offer young women researchers an individual award of €3500, €2000 or €1000 in recognition of their academic achievements and future potential. The amount can be spent on research-related activities.