Science and nature
||Although the view has changed, Lucy de Barbaro still looks at life through the lens of physics. Image: Sandbox Studio
Working at Fermilab expanded physicist Lucyna "Lucy" de Barbaro's horizons. In addition to cultivating her research capabilities and surveying the subatomic realm, she honed an affinity for the natural world.
"At Fermilab you get cutting-edge technology surrounded by prairie. It was so romantic to me," de Barbaro says. "I love nature and wanted to be involved in sustainability initiatives."
In 2000, after a decade in experimental physics, she changed directions, bringing her physics mindset with her. At work for telecommunications company Alcatel-Lucent in Naperville, Illinois, she helped develop a reliable computing and networking platform for processing cell phone calls. And in her off hours, she's become an expert on design and standards for exceptionally energy-efficient homes.
In the beginning
De Barbaro's affinity for physics began in her hometown of Krakow, Poland — in church. The priest was an accomplished cosmologist who brought together transcendental and scientific ideas in the quest for understanding the universe.
"It was a unique time and inspiration," de Barbaro says. In the 1980s, "an intellectual stir happened in Poland in conjunction with the Solidarity movement. The church played a big role in raising society."
It also played an important role in de Barbaro's decision to undertake a master's degree in theoretical physics. After receiving her degree in 1989, she and her first husband, also a physicist, came to the United States with their two daughters for graduate school.
Enrolled at the University of Rochester, de Barbaro soon joined the E706 experiment at Fermilab probing the structure of gluons, the "glue" of the strong force that clasps quarks together in pairs or trios (the latter are the core of protons and neutrons).
With Ph.D. in hand, de Barbaro became a Northwestern University postdoctoral researcher and joined Fermilab's NuTeV experiment, which scrutinized millions of neutrino interactions to make precise measurements of a parameter of the Standard Model of particles and interactions.
—Heather Rock Woods