CERN Accelerating science

CERN Summer Student Programme: An Icelander’s point of view

by Guðmundur Stefansson

Hi! My name is Guðmundur - a mouthful I know, most people call me Gummi - and I come from Iceland, “the land of fire and ice”. I finished my Bachelor degree last semester in physics, focusing on astrophysics, at the University of Iceland, and I am spending my summer as a CERN Summer Student.

Being the only Icelander in the Summer Student Programme, I travelled to CERN alone. I have to admit that before coming to CERN I didn’t really know much about the place, I knew more about the physics underlying the research rather than about the institution itself. I had some vague notions gotten from popular media: alchemy, zombies, microscopic black holes, the “god”-particle and antimatter facilities - the usual stuff. When I finally arrived to CERN I saw that some of these notions were accurate, while others were not.

Travelling in Switzerland: Interlaken

My research project is in experimental nuclear physics at ISOLDE, CERN’s oldest experiment. The project involves calibrating high purity germanium detectors, and charged particle detectors used at ISOLDE and in other travelling experiments. In the experimental hall, I handle radioactive materials a lot and I am therefore required to wear a personal dosimeter at all times, which scores very high on a physics student’s scale of coolness.

During my stay here I have been exposed to a very diverse international environment. I’ve had the chance to learn new languages, and also train (or strain) the ones I already know. Moreover, living in central Europe has given me an exceptional opportunity to travel during the weekends - I am normally grounded on an island in the middle of the Atlantic! Interlaken, Montreux, Bern, Paris, Zurich, Geneva are some of the places that have visited and I am determined to lengthen this list! A visit to CERN isn’t complete without exploring the CERN underground tunnels where The Temple - a sort of Summer Student Chamber of Secrets - is carefully hidden amongst the endless ominous and oozing tunnel corridors.

I am very content with my stay here at CERN. To get the opportunity to participate in hands on research and getting experience in working at a world class research institution, as well as getting to network with fellow aspiring scientists and engineers from all over the world, has been a very engaging experience, immediately useful in my future scientific career. Moreover, I have gotten a glimpse of the hottest topic in research in a range of scientific subfields, through attending various lectures and seminars offered here at CERN. Maybe I will return to CERN, maybe not, at this point I don’t know. Either way, I am sure that I have benefitted greatly from spending my summer here as a CERN Summer Student.



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