Spending our summer at CERN

Mike Sas and Daan Leermakers.

Early June, summer has started. Like every year you're faced with the question of how to spend your few months of freedom. You're young and no plan seems too ambitious. You could visit the Pyramids of Giza, the hanging gardens of Babylon, the great wall of China, or any of the wonders of the world. Everything seems amazing, but then there is something totally different.

We chose to spend the summer contributing to science and gaining knowledge about the fundamental principles of the universe, in one of the main laboratories for high-energy physics. This led us to a beautiful area in Switzerland, in between the amazing mountain ranges of France and next to the lake of Geneva. Here, an international collaboration has built the Large Hadron Collider, the biggest machine ever built by humanity. Sounds amazing and in practice it turned out to be pretty cool.

Every day, after the lectures had ended, we were going to the office to work on our project. We were both assigned to an analysis project in ALICE. Our daily routine was to write code, debug it a couple times, discuss the output with our supervisors and most likely debug again.

Mike on the left and Dan on the right enjoying a few relaxing moments in R1

One of us studied the standard track cuts applied to run 1 to see if the run 2 data behaves similarly and what the run 2 standard cuts should be. It was very cool to be one of the first to look at data from the LHC at the highest energies ever. Upgrades made to the detector were clearly visible while there were clearly things not working as well as we hoped either. In the end almost all cuts can be kept or sharpened, so good news for ALICE.

The other worked on neutral meson measurements in proton-lead collisions using the EMCal with the motivation to solve a known deviation from charged pion measurements. Beforehand it was unknown if the reason for this deviation would be found within the available time. After a couple of weeks a time calibration issue was found and the measurement could finally be performed without deviations from previous measurements. A high-five with the supervisor confirmed that scientific progress was made and showed that a contribution to science is actually within reach!

We are glad we spent our summer with hundreds of like-minded people who have a passion for science and it was a good opportunity to have a good thought about a career in physics.

Alice Matters