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Image: ESO, R. Fosburymore

Mathematician works in radiation protection

After studying maths, experimental physics and astronomy, Cristina Poretti wanted to become a secondary school teacher. But then she ended up at the National Emergency Operations Centre. There she would coordinate radioactivity measurements to protect the population in the event of a nuclear disaster.

Cristina Poretti is a mathematician and radiation protection expert at the National Emergency Operations Center
Image: Benedikt Vogel

The video portrait is at the bottom.

Cristina Poretti grew up in Losone near Locarno. Her father worked at a bank. Her mother was a secondary school teacher. Teaching was the career that Cristina Poretti had in mind for a long time. That's why she not only studied maths at the University of Zurich, with a minor in physics and astronomy, but also completed a higher teaching qualification. "I felt I was still too young to work as a teacher straight after graduating and wanted to gain some other professional experience first," says Poretti. "By chance, I ended up at the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC), which was still based in Zurich at the time, not in Bern as it is today."

In control of the radiological situation in Switzerland for 15 years

Although the Ticino native left her former dream job behind, the decision turned out to be the right one. Cristina Poretti has now been with the NEOC for 15 years. She is responsible for making sure that radioactivity measurements are performed in the event of an incident. To do this, she relies on a nationwide network of measuring stations and works with national and international partner organisations that are active in the field of radiation protection. Poretti and her team assess the radiological situation in Switzerland on the basis of all available data. In the event of a nuclear power plant accident or other release of radioactivity, she and her team would decide how best to protect the population.

Taking part in the military's refresher course

The National Emergency Operations Centre and Incident Management division has around 50 employees and can also call on members of the armed forces for support. As a civilian, Poretti heads the measurement organisation section with 20 members of the armed forces. She also regularly takes part in military refresher courses. "As a woman, I first had to earn their trust in this male-dominated environment," says Poretti, "but we now work very well together."

Cristina Poretti lives in Dübendorf with her husband and two daughters. For many years, she lived for figure skating, both as a skater and as a coach. When asked about her current hobbies, she mentions dancing and music.

Author: Benedikt Vogel

Some personal questions for Cristina Poretti

What is the greatest misfortune for you?

Your favourite figure in history?
Galileo Galilei

Your favourite painter?

Your favourite author?
James Rollins

Your favourite composer?
Hans Zimmer

Your favourite virtue?
Helpfulness and respect

Your favourite activity?
Enjoying time with my family and friends

Your favourite character trait?

Your favourite colour?
Blue colour

Your favourite flower?

Your favourite bird?
Kingfisher and mandarin duck

Which natural ability would you like to have?

Your motto?
One for all, all for one!

Cristina Poretti - mathematician - radioprotection expert


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