CERN Accelerating science

A summer of...chasing electrons

by Antti Juhani Karjalainen

I had heard about the CERN summer student program many years ago when a relative of mine was working here as summer student. This winter I was in my third year of Engineering Physics in Aalto University (Helsinki, Finland) and CERN was advertised in our university. I had no plans for the summer so I decided to apply. The application deadline came rapidly and soon I found myself writing furiously my motivation letter on the eve of the deadline. I managed to click the "Submit" button before the deadline. The surprise was actual when I received an email that I was chosen. 

At CERN, my project is to design an electron monochromator. Though it sounds cool, it is just an electromagnet between input and output slits. A cool way to say that is that "I'm planning a device to improve the calibrating of the new silicon detectors in the Inner Tracking System of ALICE". Inner Tracking System is the part of the detector complex which tracks the trajectory of charged particles and produces parts of those fascinating plots.

Snow in the Summer! Antti reaching the "top" of Mont Blanc.

As the pizza needs other ingredients besides the oregano, everybody can't be pointing the Higgs out of the plot. To be honest, my work feels quite fruitful and  my work is a tiny part of ALICE - like every other piece. I can also do (nearly) the whole production chain, from finding the physical demands to deciding the final dimensions of the electromagnet. In a pizza analogy: it is even wise to have your first self-made pizza quite simple.

Also the time schedule of the planning spices up the work. If you were in a restaurant, you wouldn't wait for a month even for the most perfect pizza. So a compromise between usage of time and quality must be made.  I was  promised that, if the monochromator is produced within my stay at CERN, I will be able to do the first measurements with it.

As I was writing this in the middle on July, my project had reached a peaceful phase as I have sent all the plans to the engineering sector. They will have all the fun and build it actually. So the project has actually gone as planned.

Being at CERN has many other exciting parts besides our projects. Having the lunch break in an international company is like having pizza with new seasonings. There has not been a single weekend that I stayed at home. Trips around France and Switzerland had been the coolest thing. I've been at Mount Jura three times and I promise to go there at least once more and conquer at least one more mountain. For total I think my work and free time have been in a nice balance. I think that my free time has suffered from my work the same amount as the work from the  free time.

Besides sitting in front of the screen, I will remember that (0,½) means a lepton somehow, the suffocating hot weather (for a Nordic person), awesome view from Mount Jura at night at the day of fireworks and fist pump -dance move. If there is a opportunity to eat high-tech international pizza with Swiss flavouring, I see no reason not to a have a bite.


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