Published: 13 October 2012

On Friday 28 September, between 6 pm and midnight, CERN opened the doors of the control rooms of the LHC accelerator and experiments to 250 young people. This “researchers’ night”, taking place for the third time at CERN, was part of a Europe-wide event, which happens simultaneously in more than 300 European cities.

The Researchers' Night is meant to bring together the public at large and researchers. The main objective of the event is to reveal scientists and science in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. It offers the opportunity to discover research facilities that are usually not open to the public (such as the Control Rooms).

Young researchers visiting the ALICE Experiment Control room

Fifty high-school students, aged between 14 and 16, came to the ALICE Control Room. Many of them were from neighbouring towns in France and Switzerland; some had come for the occasion all the way from England, Ireland, Portugal and Spain. They arrived at Point 2 every hour in groups of 9 or 10 and spent two hours there.

After a brief introduction to CERN and ALICE, and a visit of the exhibition at Point 2, they spent the rest of their time in the ALICE Control Room. There they had the chance to get first hand experience of how the data acquisition is done, combinig 18 different detector systems, and how the quality of the data is monitored. Enthusiastic ALICE members guided them through this voyage of discovery.

Young researchers during real data taking in the ALICE control room

Giacinto de Cataldo, who spent the evening with the children looking at event displays of collisions and explaining to them the meaning of these beautiful images, reports:

“I have been impressed by the participation to this event of many countries in the world; also by the competence shown by some students that had clear knowledge of the 'momentum' of a particle, the possibility of its measurement via a magnetic field and the relativistic effects expected in the special relativity. This reinforced to me the idea that such an initiative, 'researcher's night', deserves to be continued because it can motivate such qualified candidates to work at CERN in the future!”.