by Johan Reinink. Published: 26 August 2012

I'm not the average physicists. I really like lasers, optics and electronics and my bedroom looks like a university lab (which gave me my evil genius association). I'm Johan Reinink from the Netherlands, and as you've probably figured by now I like experimental physics a lot. I'm working for my master degree now. I'm in the optics direction and I never saw a lot of particle physics, so the summer school is a bit of a sidestep for me. The teacher of the one and only particle physics course available at my university mentioned something of a CERN summer school. Would be nice I thought, but not this year. So the next year I walked up to him ask asked about how to get into the summer school, filled in the application and waited.

To be honest it wasn't a big surprise I was selected, good motivation can get you anywhere. Still, it was awesome that I was going to CERN, but that idea only really landed a few weeks before I left. I packed my stuff, got on a plane and landed in Geneva. My first time going alone to another country, so I was new to the whole finding-your-way-around thing. It went quite well and I found my way to CERN without problems.


Johan in front of the LINAC

The first 6 weeks there are lectures in the morning, the afternoon is for working on your project. The lectures were ranging from theoretical particles physics to the more practical detector and accelerator physics. I quickly found out that theory like the standard model is nice but not my thing. Detectors and accelerators on the other hand are fascinating. The visits to the different CERN experiments were awesome, although the LHC remained something out of reach. I really like visiting labs and seeing all the experimental setups. I even organized lab tours to ISOLDE myself because they weren't part of the normal program, and over a hundred people were interested. That took some time to organize.

Everybody remembers the 4th of July, new bosons aren't found every day. For me the day even got better, I had a trip to the NA61/SHINE experiment where I went inside the detector. It's funny to realize when you're standing between the Time Projection Chambers (TPC) that the particles are usually flying through where you are standing now. Although my work isn't at all on the NA61 experiment the TPCs were nice to see. I'm testing Gas Electron Multipliers (GEM) for the ALICE TPC upgrade, so it gave a view of how TPCs can look.


"I quickly found out that theory like the standard model is nice but not my thing. Detectors and accelerators on the other hand are fascinating. The visits to the different CERN experiments were awesome, although the LHC remained something out of reach. I really like visiting labs and seeing all the experimental setups. "

The behaviour and stability of the GEMs under different conditions should be known for this and my work is to measure this. I automated the measurement setup so that the data didn't have to be gathered by hand. This meant starting in “labview” which is like a toy program. The frustration associated with it made me feel at home. It was however useful and the resulting fancy graphs provide useful information.

But experimental research can't go right all the time. In the second measurement the GEM decided to play dead and pass out. Apparently it noticed our lack of enthusiasm for its tricks and decided not to be shorted at all, much to our confusion. We're now several tests further and we still don't know where that short came from, but it's gone now and the GEM lives happily ever after and we continue our work.


Johan visited the ALICE detector on the 17th of August

The best day so far was the 17th of August. Why? I saw the ALICE detector. The real big LHC's detector somewhere down in a cavern. There was a short access as the beam was lost while there was some work on the PS and they couldn't get a new fill. My awesome supervisor arranged access for me and another summer student. The access was short but awesome, my stay here at CERN wouldn't have been so successful complete without it.

I always thought of my future being in laser physics and ultrafast optics, but now that I've seen the wonders of detectors and accelerators I'm not so sure anymore. If only my university kept its laser wakefield acceleration project alive, it would be the best of both worlds. So if you happen to stumble upon a project involving lasers and big experimental setups please let me know!

To conclude this summer has been my greatest ever. I met a lot of people, saw fascinating things, did awesome stuff and had a great time. Many thanks to all the summer students, my supervisor and everybody I met here at CERN for making my stay here a great experience.