Sabbaticals empower scientists and enrich science

Woman looking out the window

Source: © Daniel Haskett/Ikon Images

But academia needs to make them equitable

Sarah Demers anxiously awaited beam splashes as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) braced for its third run. Beam splashes occur when protons are steered to make impact near the detector Atlas and illuminate its sub-detectors. LHC operators conduct these trial runs to check if sub-detectors are running smoothly and aligned with the LHC clock.

Demers was among scientists monitoring these events on screens in the control room last year: ‘It was just terrifying, sitting and waiting for these beam splashes.’ And then, they appeared. ‘There was yelling and jumping and the typical relief and excitement,’ she recalls.

Such thrilling moments are hard to come by for busy academics like Demers, who juggle multiple responsibilities every day. But a year-long sabbatical at Cern provided the experimental physicist with a dream opportunity to immerse herself in cutting-edge research without the distractions of a full-time job. Sabbaticals play a crucial role in advancing scientists’ careers – if they are fortunate enough to be eligible for one.