Church on Sunday can feel worlds away from our day-to-day lives. We asked Christians to tell us how their lives connect with their faith for Whatever You Do.

Research scientist Stephen Haywood on a career that includes working as a particle physicist on the Large Hadron Collider at Cern in Switzerland.

Stephen with the ATLAS detector at CERN in Switzerland.

I decided to become a physicist at the age of 13 and consequently rejected religion. This was not least of all because the school chaplain declared I was a dead loss because I cannot spell to save my life – an obvious requirement for any serious Christian.

God had other plans and so the message of the film Jesus Christ, Superstar and the strange request for me to be a Godfather at the age of 16 caused me to ask: “Who was Jesus?” I was confirmed at 18 and started a journey of spiritual exploration alongside my scientific investigations.

This twin journey enabled me to work on some of the most exciting scientific projects of our age and delve into the most fundamental areas of human understanding. I lived in Paradise (also known as Switzerland), married the love of my life, and met fantastic friends and a God who have shared my journey through all its ups and down.

My daily work is frequently stressful and frustrating, interspersed with more bureaucracy than I would like. It is filled with administration to facilitate the smooth running of our department of 80 or so people, distributed across several experimental projects. But I derive great satisfaction from keeping a wonderful department in business and huge joy when I get to talk about science to visitors, young or old.

Due to on-going government control of public expenditure, money is tight for science, although to be fair, we have fared much better than many publically-funded activities. Our work costs the taxpayer a lot of money, yet it provides huge benefits: not only do we provide answers for human curiosity, but there are spin-offs in the world of medicine, detector-technology and computing (the World-Wide Web was invented at CERN). Also we inspire young people to enter the world of science, technology and engineering, thus supporting our economy.

People tend to assume that scientists cannot be Christians. In my own research group of 20, six of us are practising Christians, as are several key leaders at CERN. I once did a radio interview in December on the LHC and was asked what I made of Christmas – the interviewer got rather more than she bargained for. The next time I was on the same programme, they set aside a few minutes for me to explain my Christian faith further. A couple of weeks ago, I was in the village primary school as part of our mission week, and it was great to be able to share with the enthusiastic young audience my passion for the world of science and my love for Jesus, as we considered “God’s Universe”.

The deeper one goes into science, the more one appreciates that it does not and cannot answer all the big questions of “Life, the Universe and Everything”. The deeper one probes, the more one realises how incredible, complex and fascinating the Universe is. Just as a father is thrilled to watch his own children make discoveries, I believe in a God who delights in watching us explore his awesome creation.

Please pray for:
• funding for fundamental research – despite tough economic times, that the Government will continue to invest in the future
• opportunities for Christian scientists to share their faith both inside and outside of work
• willingness of people to recognise that science and Christianity are not opposites but complement each other.