Category Archives: Uncategorized

Creating a custom science-themed laptop skin!

As an experimental particle physicist, my laptop is an extension of myself. I use it every day to work, to run my code, to talk to colleagues around the world, to check Twitter, and also to relax. I’m writing this post on it right now!

Since I (usually) travel a lot, it’s a vital way that I can continue working on the road, or during a global pandemic.

Recently, I decided it needed decorating. I spent ages looking on a website that sold stickers for laptops for one that really resonated with me. I would be looking at this images for potentially years, I wanted it to be something I liked. In addition, people at work would be looking at it too (when we can finally leave our houses again), so it had to be something professionally appropriate too.

In the end I couldn’t decide on one image, so I decided to cover my laptop with many using a custom design! Here’s the result:

If you look closely, there are photos of the Large Hadron Collider, the four major detectors on the LHC (with a bias towards ATLAS, because that’s the one I’ve worked on for the last 10 years +) and other photos from around the CERN site, including the most famous one I’ve ever taken which is of a dishwasher!

If you want to make one of these yourself, here are the steps I took. Feel free to diverge at any point.

  1. Find out the size of your laptop in inches (sorry, metric-fans!). Most printers will want an image ‘resolution’ of 300 DPI, which means Dots Per Inch from the printer. To get this, you should multiply the length and width of your laptop in inches by 300 each and that’s the number of pixels your canvas size should be. For example, I have a MacBook Pro with a 15″ screen, so I needed 4140x2860px.
  2. Now that you have your canvas size, you need to pick your image. You could use one single large image (but you’ll want to make sure the resolution is high enough). Or, if like me you couldn’t pick just one, you need to plan out the multiple photos and how they will fit together. Please make sure that you have the right to use the images you want to include. For my design I either used photos I had taken myself (or asked someone to take for me on my own camera), or I used images from CERN which are free to use providing you’re not going to sell them or use them inappropriately. Please check out the CERN Terms of Use before going ahead.
  3. Next, you want to put your image(s) into your canvas. For this, I use the free version of Canva, which allows you to pick your canvas size, upload your images and fit them to a grid of your choosing. If you’ve never used Canva before and you click the link above, then we’ll both get a credit to put towards premium content after you’ve made your first design. If you don’t want to do that, then go to Canva.com directly :).
    Don’t forget to edit your images if you want to. I made all mine monochrome.
  4. Find a place to print your design! I used GelaSkins to print my design. Look for the ‘Create your own’ tab on their website. I messaged them beforehand to talk about what I wanted, and they discussed my order with me at every stage. They do ship from Canada, though, so if this is far from where you live, you’ll need to add in that there’ll be a higher delivery cost and time taken for the skin (as they call it) to arrive.
    (Note: I am not being paid to tell you about them, I was just very happy with how it turned out!)
    If you don’t feel creative yourself, they have a wonderful collection of art you could use instead. I had Vincent van Gogh’s Almond Blossoms on two of my previous laptops.
  5. Finally, wait for your design to arrive (shipping may take longer at the moment) and fit it onto your laptop. You’re on your own with that one though!

And that’s it! You don’t even have to stop at your laptop, you can cover your phone, tablet and more!

If you do make one, please feel free to share it with me below, or on Twitter or Instagram. I’d love to see your creations!

The Great North Run and Mermaids

I am thrilled to announce that in September, I will be running the Great North Run for Mermaids!

Me running the Paris Marathon. This is the best photo of me running I have. Thanks Julien Villa-Massone! (Note: image has been edited to remove the logo on the t-shirt).

Every young person deserves to grow up in an environment where they can be their true selves. I am supporting Mermaids because of the vital work they do to make this a reality for young gender-diverse people in the UK.

Unfortunately there is a large hate campaign against the trans and non-binary community and this can only be increasing the anxiety that young gender-diverse people are experiencing. Let’s be a light shining through that hate and show that we are here for them.

To help persuade you to part with your hard-earned cash, I will be live-streaming during some of my training runs later in the year to talk about how the training is going, why I’m running for Mermaids & some science facts too!

You can check out my fundraising page, here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/clara-nellist-mermaids

Shaking off the dust

Hello! It’s been a while. I let this website slip and stopped posting and honestly I don’t remember why. However, the longer it had been since I’d last posted the more I felt like I needed to have something especially good to post when I came back.

But as they say, perfection is the enemy of good. So, instead, I’m shaking off the dust. I’ll try to get back to posting regularly and we’ll see how that goes. A lot has changed since I was posting last. And a lot is still the same. Looking forward to sharing it with you.

Bye for now! Clara

A beautiful hotel courtyard in Puebla, Mexico. Photo: C. Nellist 2019

Parlez-vous français ?

I first started trying to learn French when I planned to moved to Geneva to work at CERN for my PhD. I took a few lessons and downloaded a podcast, but when I actually arrived, and was surrounded by Brits, or English speaking colleagues, I quickly found that other tasks took higher priority and I didn’t get any further than ordering food at a restaurant.

La tour D'Eiffel However, when I accepted a post-doc in Paris, I knew things would be different. Officially the work was in English since I would still be working with the same international researchers at CERN that I was before. But this time I was moving out on my own, so I wasn’t going to have a large British group of friends, and I had been warned that many of the engineers and support staff that I would be working with either didn’t speak English, or strongly preferred speaking French. Not to mention all of the daily life tasks I would have to face, such as finding an apartment. This was OK. In fact, it was one of the reasons looked outside of the UK for my first post-doc; I was tired of being the only monolingual in a crowd of bi-, tri- and even poly-linguals! I had to learn at least one language and moving somewhere I was going to be forced to speak it was the only way it was going to happen.

Continue reading Parlez-vous français ?

Conference Travel

One of the perks of being a particle physicist, is the travel. Actually, I should rephrase that: one of the perks of being a particle physicist with a (limited) travel budget is that you get to travel. But you have to earn it.

As I write this I am sat in the departure lounge of Paris’ Charles De Gaulle airport waiting for a flight to Toronto. I’m headed to the PIXEL2014 conference at Niagara Falls to present the results from my lab. I’ve barely slept in the last week as I try to condense all of our research into a 25 minute PDF. I’ve amused myself by finding tenuous reasons to include photos of the #67P comet that the ESA ROSETTA mission is studying (because it’s cool right now), and also the cover art of the 1989 SimCity computer game (because it’s always been cool), not to mention almost compulsory photos of the beautiful conference location, the falls themselves.

The horseshoe waterfall take just after sunrise.
The horseshoe waterfall taken just after sunrise.

This is one of the major conferences this year for researchers working on pixel detectors (it’s aptly named, unlike the BEACH conference that was in Birmingham, UK this year) and I’m really looking forward to the talks and the discussions. Also, as a young researcher, it’s important for me to begin to mix with other researchers in my area; to learn from them, share my experiences and just to be known!

Oh, they’ve just called my gate! Got to run…

Note: Edited to include said beautiful photos of the conference location.