I am a physics/astrophysics student at The University of Manchester. I also did a year in exchange at National University of Singapore this year. My background also contains 12 National Olympiads in 4 different scientific fields (one of them being Astronomy, where I won a 3rd prize) in my home country, Romania. I am currently in my fourth year in Manchester.
As I would like to do research in the future, I considered it a good thing to start as soon as possible so I searched on the internet for internship places and that's how I learned about CERN's summer student programme. It is the most welcoming programme in the world (250 students, compared to usually 10 times less in other programmes) and this together with the lectures programme makes it quite special. I was also accepted for an internship at ICRAR (International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research) in Perth, Australia, but I chose CERN because I found the programme more attractive.
Cosmin Visan during his visit in the ALICE cavern
The project in which I am involved as a summer student is part of the ALICE experiment and deals with Multivariate Analysis for the case of Particle Identification. I have to investigate some of the MVA methods that can be found as part of the ROOT framework, and find which one delivers the best results for identifying certain particles such as pions, kaons and protons.
About what I expected at CERN I must say that as an attitude I usually don’t expect anything special when I am about to start something new. I just wait to see how it really is. I don’t want to have high expectations and then get disappointed, so I prefer to have no expectation at all. So, I could say that my experience at CERN is overall very positive. It is a pleasure to wake up in the morning and go to work and I particularly like the fact that my supervisor explains to me everything that I need to know. He is a friendly person and the CERN atmosphere in general is a friendly one.
I didn’t have to read in advance, but it would have been nice to have been given something, at least to have a look at, so that I could get a feeling. I wasn’t very familiar with any of the CERN experiments, but now I am; especially after visiting all the four LHC experiments.
It would be nice to spend more time at CERN, maybe doing my PhD in collaboration with CERN. So I guess I will have to apply when the time comes and I hope that I will get accepted.
Finally, I found the Swiss summer a very expensive one. I found everything to be about 5 times more expensive than in Romania. For example, to see a movie in my home town is 3-4 CHF, while here it costs 20 CHF. So I haven’t been to any movie here. Instead, I did things that don’t require money, like going to Jura mountains and Saleve, going by bike to Geneva (btw, thanks for the bike). I also went to Lyon and Chamonix.
As a summary, being a summer student at CERN has indeed been a unique experience!