by Panos Charitos. Published: 05 December 2012

Adam Szczepankiewicz is a PhD student in computer science in the Warsaw University of Technology. Following his master he is currently in the second semester of his PhD program and has recently moved to CERN.

A.M. What is the topic of your PhD?

The topic of my PhD is related to the tracking system and the online processing for the ITS upgrade. As part of the bigger plan of my PhD thesis, I am currently writing and testing new algorithms that will be used in the tracking system of the upgraded ITS. Of course, these are still the early days of my research since I have been at CERN only a couple of months and there are so many things to learn about!

A.M. 'How familiar does one has to be with the current ITS to move on with this type of research?

At the moment I am still getting familiar with the current tracking system and its basic principles of operation. When I first arrived, early this September, everyone was extremely busy because of the preparation of the CDR for the ITS upgrade. They were all working to get all the results before presenting this project to the LHC Committee. One has to be very proactive and able to take initiatives in order to follow with the research done by many different groups and in order to cope with the huge amount of work.

Adam Szczepankiewicz, a PhD student in computer science in the Warsaw University of Technology working on the tracking system and the online processing for the upgraded ITS.

A.M. How did you start working then?

At the moment I am working on some issues related to the design of the system-architecture. Once this is done we will be able to decide how to handle tracking and how to implement the new tracking system for the ITS.

A.M. Which are the main parameters that one has to take into account in the new design?

First of all one has to think seriously about the geometry of the detectors that will be used. When you know the geometry you have to know the amount of data that you expect to get in the case of heavy-ion collisions this is an extremely high number of data and the bandwidths. Then you have to design something like a computer farm to cope with this large amount of data processing and being able to do the data tracking. Finally in order to design and implement your tracking system you need to know where the data will be sent, how they will be processed etc. It is really a lot of work that has to be done in order to see the particles produced during these collisions with the ALICE ITS.

A.M Were you already familiar with ALICE? Have you worked on ALICE during your MSc thesis?

No. My MSc thesis was completely unrelated to heavy ion physics and ALICE. At some point during my studies I decided that I want to look to a different subject; I then applied to the web interface and I was selected by the TPC team. When a physicist comes to CERN I suppose that he is more familiar but hopefully with an extra amount of effort I can now understand what is happening.

I remember that during the first weeks people explained to me what is the role of the TPC and its principle of operation. I am not sure that I understood everything at that time, but after working with the TPC for one year, actually 14 months, I decided I enjoy working at CERN and being a member of this larger community. Following this period, my group asked me whether I would be interested to move on with a PhD and I thought that this was the right move.

A.M. How difficult was it for you to familiarize yourself with particle physics?

I think that in general, a computer scientist needs to be able to move easily between different contents and do his job only by getting the necessary information. For example there are computer scientists working for banks, in the chemical or pharmaceutical industry, in the creative industries. These are very diverse fields and one has to be very well equipped in order to deal with the challenges they present. Of course I had some knowledge of particle physics but my work is about writing and using specific algorithms that will correspond to the specific needs of data taking from the physical processes happening in the LHC.

A.M. What are the main tools you expect to use in your research?

I mostly use C++ but I have also worked with Python and ROOT as well as some hardware related languages.