CERN Accelerating science

Rencontre avec Catherine Laverrière

After a 35-year career at CERN, Catherine Laverrière will retire in June.

When you meet Catherine for the first time, you are greeted by a smiling, calm and caring person. Once you work with her, you will get to discover the energy that feeds her great working capacity and witness the accuracy of her words and assessments.

Catherine arrived at CERN as an administrative assistant in the SB division (Services and Buildings) in April 1983 and typed her first calls for tenders for the construction of the LEP with a typewriter. In November 1989, while on maternity leave to welcome her firstborn, she could not participate in the inauguration day of the LEP, the culmination of a long and exciting collaboration.

As after any major project, CERN went through a restructuring and Catherine continued her journey, remaining in the “technical” field and working, among others, for the MT-SM group of Cristoforo Benvenuti, then for Paul Faugeras and, from 1996 to 2004 for the LHC-CRI group (cryostats). The LHC project was launched shortly after and Catherine, guided by her sense of rigour, strove again to write clear and precise technical documents. Her organisational skills and meticulousness led her to get involved in the area of quality assurance, which started to take shape at CERN during the construction phases of the LHC, under the impetus of P. Faugeras and his team. From calls for tenders in “Engineering Change Request” (ECR), through the development of the “Engineering and equipment Database Management Service” (EDMS), and the “Manufacturing and Test Folder” (MTF) databases, Catherine was involved in the development of a data archiving and exchange structure that serves to this day as the basis of the gigantic technical composition of the LHC. At the end of 2007, she joined the Safety Commission and embarked upon a new adventure under the direction of Elena Manola, as a part of the team in charge of developing CERN Safety Files and publishing the CERN Safety Rules. It is within the HSE unit that she ends her career today, after a short secondment from 2013 to 2015 for the restructuring and reorganisation of the CERN Fire Brigade.

Staff Association: How do you feel after 35 years at CERN?

Catherine Laverrière: It has been a great opportunity, a chance to meet people equipped with both great knowledge and great humility.

SA: In your opinion, what is the main reason for CERN’s success? 

C.L.: The goodwill and excellence of everyone involved. Next to each great scientist, including Nobel Prize winners, there was an engineer and a technician who were also brilliant in their field and without whom success and innovation would not have been possible.

Since 2007, Catherine has also been a staff delegate. At the Staff Association, she quickly integrated the “CAPA”, the Individual Cases Commission, where her listening skills and benevolence were highly appreciated. Her ability to write articles also brought her to the In-Form-Action Commission, which she chaired for a while. In 2007, she also joined the Executive Committee. Finally, Catherine was elected Vice-President of the Staff Association for the term 2016-2017.

SA: Over the years, what changes have you noticed in career development at CERN?

C.L.: The introduction of the recognition of merit has cultivated individualism by putting people in competition. I fear that values that have made CERN successful, such as team spirit and teamwork, suffer as a result.

SA: Would you have any advice for the future?

C.L.: No, rather a wish: that we recognise and reward the technical expertise of our personnel. In my opinion, the specificity and exceptional expertise of many of our technicians and technical engineers are not, or are no longer, properly understood and recognised. To deprive ourselves of this expertise and the associated knowledge would be a serious mistake for the Organization! I am talking about, among other things, the shortening of the career path D, which in a way denies the existence of these exceptional levels of competence.

Catherine, life goes on, and now you can devote yourself to your family and enjoy your well-deserved retirement, which will surely be as fulfilling as your professional life was. We imagine you in Africa advocating for a charity dear to your heart or in pays de Gex, surrounded by your family and friends.

We will miss you, Catherine.