by Panos Charitos. Published: 15 September 2013

Satyajit Jena received this year’s "Award for Excellence in Thesis Work 2013" that is given every year by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT).  

Satyajit received an e-mail from the Academic Office of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Bombay informing him about the award. “I ran to call to my supervisor as I wanted to find out more about the award. Although I was very active student in the department of Physics throughout my PhD I never imagined that I would get this award” says Satyajit.

Every year, the Head of the Department nominates a few candidates and informs the selection committee that consists of senior professors from various departments across IIT appointed by the Post Graduate Degree Council of the IIT. The final selection is based on the recommendations from the various departments across the institute and also on the reports from an internal and an external examiner. The award is announced each year on the Convocation Day and IIT invites a so-called “Chief Guest” for the ceremony; usually a high profiled person with a significant contribution to India’s social life.

Satyajit in front of the Photon Multiplicity Detector (PMD). Satyajit was involved in the commissioning and testing of the ALICE PMD.

Satyajit’s PhD thesis was on "Event by Event physics on the measurement of net-charge fluctuations in ALICE". During his PhD career Satyajit has been involved in various projects, both in physics and R&D programmes, however he selected this contemporary topic of the study of “net-charge fluctuation in ALICE” as his PhD thesis. When we ask him about his topic he explains: “The non-statistical event-by-event fluctuations in relativistic heavy ion collisions have been proposed as a probe of phase instabilities near the QCD phase transition. In particular, charge fluctuations are sensitive to the number of charges in the system, thus the fluctuations in the QGP. Fractionally charged partons are significantly different from those of a hadron gas with unit charged particles giving a better understanding of the formation of QGP and hadronization processes”.

In his thesis he used data from the ALICE central detectors (Time Projection Chamber and Inner Tracking) as well as measurements from other trigger detectors. Up to now, results show the dominance of the correlation of positive and negative charges. “While the lower energies results stay close to the prediction for a hadron gas, ALICE data are below the prediction for a hadron gas and above that of the QGP. This can be attributed to the fact that the fluctuation may not be strong enough to be measured at lower energies and/or because of the dilution of fluctuation during the evolution process” continues Satyajit.  The thesis work has been published in Phys. Rev. Lett. 110, 152301 (2013). “I am delighted on the publication of my thesis contribution as a Physical Review Letter and this paper is one of the first papers on ALICE data from Indian community” continues Satyajit.

He started his PhD in 2009 under the supervision of Professors BK Nandi and Raghav Varm from IIT Bombay. This was the first time that Satyajit visited CERN. He still remembers the first time that he was introduced to ALICE by Professor Tapan Nayak. During his first CERN visit he participated in a test beam programme in the PS T10 experimental area and he quickly got involved in the commissioning and testing of the Photon Multiplicity Detector (PMD). He played a crucial role in the detector installation, offline tests of the modules, HV and LV monitoring and final tests using stand-alone DAQ. This was not a surprise since Satyajit already had a significant experience in instrumentation from IIT where he worked for the India based Neutrino Observatory (INO) Project - both in detector R&D as well as in feasibility tests. Satyajit has a wonderful experience as member of the team that participated in building and runs the PMD detector; “from commissioning the detector to data taking and data analysis that gave the exciting results to presenting first results’’. “I find myself very lucky being PhD student in ALICE as well as at IIT Bombay, since it remained very fruitful and golden time of my life – I enjoyed the time as a student researcher as I wanted and dreamt for all the time” says Satyajit.

Satyajit is presently a Postdoc Fellow at CERN working with the ALICE team at the University of Houston. “We are mostly involved in the characterization of QGP Physics, which mainly includes particle identification measurements at high momenta and many particle correlation measurements, in particular event-by-event physics. I am working on the continuation of my previous work and flavour dependent higher moment study in ALICE.  We hope to unravel the creation of mass from the new deconfined phase of matter and the generation of long-range structures in the early universe using these measurements. Moreover, during this time I will try to do my best to contribute to the achievement of few of physics ambitions in ALICE”. When we ask him about his future plans: “I don't think much about what I would do in the future - life is a journey which I have, so far, enjoyed and learnt to face as it comes to me”.

Perhaps not surprisingly since Satyajit has always enjoyed science and could never think of a different career. From the first time that he heard about CERN when he was ten, he always wished that one day he would work at CERN. He adds: “When I went to the cavern for the first time, I was amazed by the novel art in arrangements of cables, pipes and detectors; it was simply impossible for me to think how it was done – and often I thought, the ALICE and LHC, the technological advancements that were achieved in order to put such establishment to understand the nature should be rewarded as 8th wonder of the world”.

Satyajit working in the cavern during PMD installation.

For Satyajit: “Working at CERN is a really great experience, I feel proud to be here, I always get access to interact with experts, all opportunity to meet and getting to know so many people. In particular, the spirit of collaboration among scientists is essential for a large scale experiment like ALICE. All these have been strongly influencing my integral development of knowledge and my skills as an experimental physicist. There is nothing better than having an interesting career that not only makes you think but also opens you up to new experiences. It seems that there is a great learning curve for me that shows the beauty of life; especially when work and interests match together.”