by Jaroslav Bielčík, Czech Technical University in Prague. Published: 26 April 2015

For the last four years, high-school students from Czech Republic participated in the ALICE exercise during the International Particle Physics Masterclasses.  The event, advertised as “One day as a particle physicist”, was held at the Department of Physics, Faculty of Nuclear Sciences and Physics Engineering of the Czech Technical University in Prague.

This year we were overwhelmed by the interest of the students.  We aimed initially for a group of 30 participants, but within a few days after the announcement appeared on our webpage all the places were booked. Therefore we decided to extend the capacity and we finally hosted 57 students on March 13, 2015. The attractiveness of our Masterclasses can be seen by the fact, that students came from the whole Czech Republic and some of them travelled more than 300 km to Prague.

The programme started with  a cordial welcome from the Dean of the Faculty, Prof. Igor Jex.  In the morning there were two lectures about particle physics from Prof. Boris Tomášik, who gave an introduction to heavy ion and particle physics, followed by a presentation by Dr. Jozef Ferencei  (an ALICE team member of NPI ASCR) on the ALICE detector. 

A lunch for all the participants was prepared by students from the experimental particle physics group. During lunch we had the opportunity to present CERN-related activities and answer a dozen of questions about particle physics.  Students were also guided to our silicon detector lab. 

 Dr. Ferencei  (NPI ASCR) explaining the detector aspects of the ALICE experiment.

Katka Gajdosova (Master student of CTU Prague) explaining the motivation for the RAA exercise.

At 13.30 everything was ready for the masterclass and students were eager to start working with real data from ALICE; this year we decided to work on the ALICE  RAA nuclear modification factor exercise. 

This required some computing skills and it was a hard job for our assistants to instruct the students, provided the short time for the exercise. Thanks to the good preparation we completed both parts of the exercise and by 15.30 a short summary of the results was given by the mentors. Shortly after that we moved to the lecture hall and got ready for the video conference with CERN and other institutions (GSI Darmstadt, University of Heidelberg and University of Muenster in Germany). Apparently connecting with the students from all these laboratories was the main part of the whole day.  The students were a bit shy at the beginning but soon they started discussing the physics and presenting their results to the other participants.

The ALICE exercise needed a lot of concentration.

It was a very busy day for all of us by the end of which we all felt quite exhausted, but it has been rewarding as many students got for the first time a clear understanding about particle physics and about the work of particle physicists.

The ALICE Masterclass exercise offered them a great opportunity to obtain information about ALICE and the LHC. Their feedback was very positive and encouraging.  Several students wrote to me a few days later that they were thinking of applying for a degree in particle physics study at our university, since they learned that research in high energy particle physics is a career they would like to follow in their lives.

I think we could not aim for more.