CERN Accelerating science

CERN, No Longer Just a Dream

by Catherine Hsu

Gazing up into the dark night sky, dappled with countless shimmering stars, I cannot help but feel mystified and captivated as the thought of the Universe runs through my mind. Why is the Universe the way it is? What gave rise to it all? The Universe is so mysterious, and so vast. It is unbelievable that what constitutes it, constitutes us. There are no secrets in the Universe. It is like an unmade puzzle. The pieces of the final picture are all there, and with every fitted piece, the picture nears completion. I really admire the mission of the LHC as it is building the puzzle of the Universe, and of Life. It is piecing together every discovery to ultimately find the truth.

My name is Catherine Hsu. I am Chinese, and I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. My family is very traditional, and from them I have learnt the richness of the Chinese culture and its wisdom. Since the ancient times, the quest to discover the origin of the Universe had already been prevalent. My family has told me many stories of people's great determination, of hard work, and of the human soul's indestructability in pursuing the truth. These stories have not only heightened my curiosity towards Nature, but they have also instilled in me the notion that to truly understand the ways of Nature, and ultimately the origin of Life, it is important to discover that which is the most fundamental. After watching a documentary about CERN and its purpose, I knew from then on that I would pursue my studies and my future in high energy particle physics. I am now a 1st year Masters student in South Africa and my research project is an analysis one using the ATLAS detector. The immense amount of knowledge I still need to gain in this field is exciting and enjoyable.

As I wake up in the morning, I still cannot believe that I am a summer student here at CERN! It feels surreal. I have been looking forward to having the opportunity to see CERN in person for a long time, and I would not have had this experience if it were not for my supervisor in South Africa. I feel very privileged to be part of this summer school programme. The lectures are all highly interesting, and they have uncovered my eyes, showing me a detailed picture of how the quest to  understand the Universe are weaved together with the work at CERN. This new light has shown me a larger picture of both my Masters research work as well as my summer school project which focuses on the hardware study of the Hadronic Tile Calorimeter. Many of the lectures were challenging for me, but they are the perfect stepping stones to learning new knowledge.

I have enjoyed every moment of being a summer student at CERN, from attending lectures and working on my project to enjoying lunch with friends from different cultural backgrounds and different countries. I will remember listening to lectures in the same auditorium that the Higgs-like particle discovery was first announced, and I will remember the feeling that I got at that moment. I was moved with the confirmation that science is a lending hand that can pull us up from the darkness and draw us closer to understanding the truth of why Nature is the way it is.

Seeing CERN is no longer just a thought, but it is now a wonderful memory. Not only have I experienced CERN and its multicultural environment, but I have also finally seen the ATLAS detector! It was an amazing moment to step through the doorway into the cavern, and to stand right in front of ATLAS. It is undoubtedly an awesome structure. The visit has not only made me marvel at humans' great intelligence and ability to create, but it has brought me closer to my research work.

CERN, also a  place of beauty surrounded by majestic mountains and adorned by colourful flowers, is truly an ideal platform to express curiosity through creativity. I would like to continue my research at CERN, and to be able to be part of this large group of physicists. I hope to one day also make a contribution to society. 

The Universe is mysterious, but with perseverance and flexibilty of the mind, the puzzle of the Universe and of Life can be completed and understood. After all, as Niels Bohr once said: “A physicist is just an atom's way of looking at itself.”








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