19. August 2015 Tereza Kroupová

News from CERN

My third year at UCL is finished and summer is in full swing.

June was hectic. Straight after exams and before my bachelors project presentation, my friend and I had gone for a hiking trip to Lake District in the North of England. We had hiked a few mountains (see photo), slept in a few barns and seen a few lakes. After my final presentation, I spent two weeks in Prague with my family. The time was unfortunately too short to accommodate all planned museum visits and football matches with my younger brother. Finally, on 20th June, I arrived to the European Organization for Nuclear Research, primarily know by its abbreviation – CERN.

Photo from the way down from Scafell Pike, Lake District, England

I got to CERN thanks to their Summer Student Programme. I am going to spend here 10 weeks working on a project at CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) experiment, which is one out of two multipurpose detectors on the accelerator LHC (Large Hadron Collider). LHC accelerates two counter-propagating proton (or heavy ion) beams to a speed very close to the speed of light. When the two beams cross and protons collide,  fundamental particles are thrown in all directions and then spotted by the detectors. Scientists at CERN and elsewhere then look at the data from the detectors, reconstruct the collisions and study the nature of the elementary particles and their interactions. I use data simulation and analysis to decrease the uncertainty on the W boson mass, which is one of the free parameters of our currently best mathematical “model of the Universe” (at least that is how particle physicists think about it).

My stay here became even more exciting, when on the 14th of July, another experiment at CERN, LHCb, announced the discovery of pentaquarks. Pentaquark is a bound state of four quarks and one antiquark. In the past years, many scientists tried to discovered these particles, but this was the first time there was an unambiguous evidence for them. By coincidence, I was able to attend a lecture given by one of the members of LHCb the day after the discovery was announced. He explained us the importance of pentaquarks, what they offer us for further study and some details of the search for them. Although there is no connection between me and this discovery, it is an amazing experience to be present on the same place in the same time. Six weeks of my internship here are already over and yet it is still hard to believe that I have the opportunity to spend my summer on such an extraordinary place.

View of the Lake Geneva from a public beach in the centre of the city

CERN is on the French/Swiss border, approximately 40 minutes of bike ride from the centre of Geneva. Apart from the fact that without knowledge of French one cannot communicate anywhere, it's a perfect place. In the free time one can go swimming in the Geneva lake, hike up one of the peaks of Jura Mountains, visit the Alps, go for a run though French vineyards, bike to one of nearby picturesque towns or go to one of many free concerts and public events in Geneva (see photos). Furthermore, there are restaurants, gym and long list of clubs and societies one can join at CERN. There are movie projections every now and then, workshops and public lectures every now and then. Therefore, there is not a single minute when I would be bored. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to work on my dream workplace and I hope that I will get a chance to come back one day.

Photo from a 12 hour hike in Jura Mountains

Small town of Coppet visited during a bike ride to Lausanne

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