3rd year's students go to CERN
As every year, PhD students in particle physics showed 3rd year bachelor's students around at CERN for two full days of intensive visits. This trip was organized as part of their first lecture about particle physics and included visits of experiments CP3 has contributed to, such as CMS and NA62, but also many other experiments and facilities.
The tour started with CERN's oldest particle accelerator, the now-retired Synchro-Cyclotron (SC). The SC, which is the latest addition to CERN's visits offer, features a unique video projection system allowing students to grasp the cyclotron's workings in a very visual way.
The group then had the opportunity to see the Antiproton Decelerator and its related experiments, with members of the AEgIS collaboration explaining how to produce, contain and study anti-hydrogen atoms. Following up with a visit of the ISOLDE nuclear physics facility, this showed the students CERN not only deals with the high-energy frontier, but also with other, quite different fields of study.
The first day of visits also included CAST, one of the most sensitive axion-hunting experiments, as well as one of the highlights of the trip: the CMS experiment. The group had the chance to make their way a hundred meters underground, and discover one of the world's largest particle physics experiments. They were very lucky in that they could gasp inside the machine and gaze at its gigantic supra-conducting solenoid and different sub-detectors, as the so-called endcaps had not been closed yet.
After an exhausting but very instructive day, the group headed to Geneva for a relaxing evening. Indeed, the next day's program was quite as full as the first's, starting with CERN's huge Data Centre, hosting one of the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid's Tier-0s. Students learned about the tremendous evolution of computing power over the last decades and about the need for huge computing and data storage facilities in the context of modern high energy physics.
For the next visits, the group relocated to CERN's Prévessin site, where they saw the AMS International Space Station experiment's Control Room, as well as CERN's impressive Control Centre (CCC), from where the whole accelerator chain is steered. Thanks to the guide's connections, they even had the chance to be allowed inside the CCC.
This was not yet the end of it, as the students were also shown around two large fixed-target experiments: COMPASS, and NA62, for which the visit was given by no one else than a PhD student from CP3 working with the NA62 collaboration. These visits gave the students a clear view of the different types of particle detectors used in high energy physics experiments.
To conclude the trip, the group learned about the LHC's extraordinary supra-conducting magnets at the SM18 magnet testing facility.
This trip comes at a time when the students have to decide in what field to specialize themselves. Let us hope showing them very concretely what research in modern high-energy physics entails helps them making a more informed choice!
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