by Federico Ronchetti. Published: 13 October 2012

Federico Ronchetti in the ALICE control room

When I booked my block of Shift Leader shifts I was not expecting to be right in the climax of the Researcher’s Night for this year. I was told that we should expect several groups of students visiting the Alice Control Room. ALICE is one of the four LHC experiments and three shifters plus the Shift Leader usually occupy our control room. The shift crew has very well defined tasks: Data Acquisition (DAQ), Detector Control (DCS), Data Quality Monitoring (DQM). The Shift Leader ensures that all operations are correctly executed in a timely fashion, according to the status of the LHC accelerator.

Young researchers learning about the ALICE Experiment on 28 September 2012 in the ALICE Control Room.

In this specific occasion LHC was re-establishing the correct operational conditions after a regular maintenance period called Technical Stop; and this puts some stress on the shift crew since we may have to quickly adapt to non-standard setups. So when I was told we would have so many visitors (including journalists) during the actual data taking I addressed my crew to make sure they would remain focused on the tasks and do not get distracted by the ongoing didactic activities.

After a tour of the ALICE exhibition young researchers' spent two hours in the ALICE Experiment Control Room, along with the ALICE members on shift.

My ALICE colleagues had done an excellent job in setting up in the control room an entire row of didactic workstations where the young students could simulate the very same procedure that the shift crew was executing for real.

In addition the large projector screen was used to show heavy ion collision events from real data. In addition to experiencing the control room life, the students had also the opportunity to visit our small exhibition where we display several sub-detectors (most of them are functional prototypes) composing the whole ALICE setup. Despite the fact that I had instructed my crew not to get distracted from the visits, I did bring my digital camera with me, and I took the chance to illustrate the visits of the students and the exciting atmosphere we have been breathing on a very special day for all of us: students and scientists.