CERN • High School Student Internship Programme • 2019
“Oh, yeah, by the way, did you know? I’m going to CERN!” was something I have said at least once to practically everyone I conversed with since I found out I got the internship. The weeks before the HSSIP were very exhausting for all my friends and family since I wouldn’t stop talking about particle physics, CERN and how I lucky I was to have been chosen to be part of this programme.
The wait had been worth the while.
Upon arrival I stashed my things in my room and immediately went out to stroll through CERN. Together with some of the other interns, we walked around the Meyrin site for over two hours until we decided to head back to the hotel so we’d be on time for our first dinner in Restaurant 1. Eating amongst all these scientists and other CERN members was incredibly exciting and an indescribable feeling. Plus, we were all hooked once we laid eyes on the 360g CERN edition Toblerone bars.
The next day’s official welcome and introduction to CERN was very entertaining thanks to Jeff, a fellow Austrian who explained everything we needed to know with extreme passion and humour, science slam style. After meeting our supervisors and going on a treasure hunt in Meyrin, which was a piece of cake due to us having already explored the site, we retired, every one of us eager to start on our projects the following morning.
I myself was assigned to do project 6 together with Valentina Haller, who was also my roommate for those two weeks. It was our job to create a website for the relatively new experiment MIRACLS (Multi Ion Reflection Apparatus for Collinear Laser Spectroscopy) at the ISOLDE Facility (Isotope Separator On-Line DEvice). Hence, we got a tour of ISOLDE together with two other girls, Natalie and Antonia, who worked on project 9. It was their task to create a website for COLLAPS and update the VITO website (both experiments are also part of ISOLDE). We all instantly hit it off with project 9’s supervisor, Tassos Kanellakopoulos, a Greek PhD student working with COLLAPS, who lead the tour.
The four of us all had our workspace in the same office in building 3, where we worked on our website designs with HTML, using a template from another CERN website. Next to sitting in front of our laptops for hours at a time, Valentina and I also met with the entire MIRACLS group to make pictures and gather information for their individual profiles on the website. We got to participate in the weekly group meeting where everyone presented problems and achievements and generally kept their teammates up to date about their work. Together with Natalie and Antonia we also attended a lecture from a Czech physicist for all the ISOLDE members that were present.
Next to working on our projects, we also had the chance to visit a lot of interesting places at CERN. A few of the things we visited were the Synchrocyclotron, the Antimatter Factory, AMS POCC, ALICE and CMS. Getting to see all these sites one usually only watches videos about is an amazing experience that I will never forget and hopefully have the chance to do again someday.
Living in the European Council for Nuclear Research, walking around with a CERN-ID like all the “real” scientists and casually conversing with others about particle physics is my definition of “living the dream”. I am one of the lucky people who got to live their dream, even if it was only for two weeks. “Oh, yeah, by the way, did you know? I went to CERN!” is something I’m going to say to practically everyone I meet from now on.
Helene Stepman, 8e