by Matthias Gazzari. Published: 18 August 2014

The first time I heard of CERN was during my school time when I was participating in the Saturday Morning Physics lectures at the university of Mainz. During these lectures I got a first tiny glimpse of what particle physics and CERN are all about. Visiting CERN in the course of this programme and later on in a private capacity, I realized more and more that I wanted to join CERN in the process of discovering the unknown and pushing the frontiers of science and technology. Motivated by the passion people displayed at CERN and the fascination of a multinational environment, I decided to participate in the Summer Student programme.

A particle track caused by cosmic rays in a cloud chamber made by ourselves during one of the workshops.

During my stay at CERN I have been working on a prototype of the ITS (Inner Tracking System) of the ALICE detector, which is based on monolithic active pixel sensors (MAPS) and will replace the former one during the LS2 (Long Shutdown 2) in 2018. More precisely, my task is to implement a further readout mode to the system, which will be used to characterise the new sensor.

In addition to the work I was able to listen to a series of great lectures, which gave me a broader view on different kinds of topics concerning physics and the different areas of work here at CERN. Visiting the respective experiments, control rooms and test facilities was a unique experience since one could see the real work done virtually next door. Participating in different workshops was an excellent chance to enforce what was told in the lectures and to get an even more practical glimpse of the work done here.

Apart from the work I enjoyed the beautiful landscape by hiking, going to the lake of Geneva and exploring the nearby region by bike. I liked sitting in R1, enjoying the fresh air, a coffee and the nice surroundings while meeting other people or just pondering on ideas. Indeed, CERN does not feel like a simple place of work to me but instead seems like a place of creativity driven by a multitude of dedicated people.

All in all being a summer student helped to vastly expand my horizon and gave me a great insight into CERN research. I have discovered many different possibilities to take part and most importantly, it strengthened my decision to pursue research.