My name is William Bergan and I am an undergraduate studying physics at the College of William and Mary in the US. I had heard about the CERN summer student programme while talking with friends at college and looking through lists of summer physics programmes and decided to apply. I had selected ALICE as one of my preferred experiments because most of my previous experience had been on a neutrino physics experiment (MINERvA) and I wanted to try something new. I had heard a bit about the quark-gluon plasma and wanted to learn more.
With the assistance of Gilda Scioli and Francesca Bellini, I am working on measuring the efficiency of the time of flight detector (TOF). To do this, I am counting up the number of tracks seen by the time projection chamber and seeing how many of them have an associated hit in the TOF. To ensure that these tracks actually pass through the TOF, I have put in a requirement that they have a hit in the EMCAL (which is right outside the TOF). In addition, I am modifying existing cuts on track cleanliness to ensure that the reconstructed tracks correspond to well-behaved real particles and I am correcting for dead areas of the detector. While doing this project, I have learned a lot about how large detectors are designed and put together as well as how to work within a large interconnected analysis framework.
Coming to CERN, I really was not sure what to expect and my experience here has been far better than anything I could have expected. I have enjoyed making friends with fellow physics students from all over the world. In addition, I have had a great time traveling around Switzerland, seeing some of the cities, and especially hiking in the Alps. I also enjoyed having the chance to see the large LHC detectors in person, especially seeing the ALICE detector and having it sink in that this was what I was working on.