Hi, I am Brian Thorsbro and I am a summer student at CERN year 2014. I work at the Alice experiment and my work involves Monte Carlo simulations of particle collisions. Most Monte Carlo generators export the generated data to the format called HepMC and my task is to make this format usable in the ALICE simulation and reconstruction framework.
I am in my forties and you may wonder how I have ended up as a summer student at this age. I am indeed a student, as I have started studying physics three years ago and just completed my bachelor this summer, carrying on to continue my master this coming semester.
My previous experience comes from a rather successful career as a software developer. I started studying computer science back in the early nineties, but I didn't manage to get my degree before the internet revolution kicked in. I joined the revolution - like many other computer science students - and started my own company together with two friends with the purpose of bringing the internet to the commercial market. In five years we grew the company to 50 employees at which point we sold the company. Interestingly enough my first action after that was to return to university to finish my bachelor degree in computer science, at this point nine years after I began it. After a few years of mixed study and vacation I was ready to get into working again, and together with a few people I met on the internet I started another company, again we managed to grow the company to 50 employees over five to six years, but then the financial crisis of 2008 hit and the story was definitely different from the story of the internet revolution. The company was (and still is) a great place to work at, but I grew restless nearing my 10th anniversary and I knew another change was incoming.
Since I have been a kid I have always been a great fan of science fiction. Since I did not get a computer until I was a teenager when the Commodore 64 was released, I managed to read all the science fiction books of the local library. While the new technology took my attention I never lost my curiosity wondering what kind of world we live in.
I have a fundamental belief that we can never really know who we are without knowing the world we live in. There are many different sciences you can study if you want to explore the world, like sociology, psychology, history, languages, etc. But for me the appealing point of natural science is that it is an effort to describe the stage on which everything happens.
And so it happened in my late thirties I was devouring everything called popular science, watching Cosmos and other TV series, reading books and slowly getting the feeling that it was too superfluous-I wanted to study the real thing. I enrolled at Linnaeus University in Sweden as a distance student (since I was still working) for the first year of physics. It was so great an experience that I simply decided that this was it. I quit my job and enrolled at the university in my home town, Lund, Sweden for the second year. And this is the course that I have set for the moment.
I do not wish to let go of my past as a software developer, so my hope is that I will be able to find a place where I can explore physics while still putting my skills to good use. CERN is an obvious place where this can happen, and thus it should not come to anyone's surprise that I applied to become a summer student. I have actually applied twice, the first time I was unsuccessful, but the second time I had my shot.
Coming to CERN and seeing it as a workplace has been a wonderful experience. It has opened my eyes to many interesting things that are going on here and I believe that I could contribute to it. I can definitely see my self returning to this place again in the future!