by Ashhad Azam. Published: 15 August 2014

I am Ashhad, a student of Physics at the Lahore University of Management Sciences in Pakistan. I like travelling, reading books, watching movies, playing cricket and of course eating lots of food (especially if it is free). I am more of a quiet guy who likes to spend time with his family and just a bunch of friends. Given my financial background, every good thing seemed far off during my school years. In fact I could never think of attending LUMS, one of the most prestigious universities of Pakistan not to mention coming to CERN. I was overjoyed when I received the invitation to attend the fully funded summer student programme at CERN. This opportunity was quite special to me since not only working at CERN is amazing but it is also the first time that I was leaving my country.

I was really excited about meeting my supervisor, Chilo Garabatos, when I arrived at CERN. He was really helpful, spending time with me in the laboratory and making sure that I learnt as much as possible. I worked on the gas electron multipliers prototypes (GEMs), fine-tuning the technique as well as trying to do ion mobility measurements within the setup. GEMs are gaseous detectors, which are being considered for the upgraded ALICE Time Projection Chamber during the Phase 1 upgrade. Along with my supervisor and two PhD students, we installed a GEM prototype in the lab and measured signals from alpha and beta radiation. The idea was to optimize the amplification as well as the detection of the signal. We are still working to measure the ion mobility of different ions in Ne-CO2 and I hope that this will be finished before the end of my time as a summer student.

I found the summer student programme very well structured. Apart from a project and lab work, there were daily lectures along with workshops and visits which added to the whole experience. The lectures were on a wide range of topics ranging from string theory to using particle physics in medical applications. The lectures provided a thorough mix and a very well rounded introduction to work being done in widely different but interconnected areas of science. To spice up things, there were regular workshops and visits. I visited all the major experiments of LHC with CMS being my favorite in terms of aesthetics. Looking up close to these giants really makes one wonder about the amount of effort and knowledge that has gone to make these masterpieces. Being in ALICE, my supervisor was kind enough to take me inside the detector as a worker rather than as a visitor. It was really an amazing experience to maneuver around inside ALICE looking at the TPC and the muon arm up close. It was an experience I will always cherish and which made me even more fascinated by the work being done at ALICE and CERN.

While the weekdays were all work, the weekends were reserved for fun. I had decided not to waste a single weekend and to explore different places in the seven weekends that I had. From visiting museums and partying in lake parade to casually walking along the scenery in Interlaken, I visited Bern, Zurich, Montreux, went to Jungfraujoch - top of Europe, saw the Europe’s largest plain waterfalls and had a chance to see the famous Musée du Louvre in Paris and the Palace of Versailles.

I am now leaving with a heavy heart but with lots of memories to take back with me. Given the opportunity, I would love to come to CERN again. This is the summer I will never forget.