by Polly Bennett. Published: 16 March 2012

In December, 53 students from the Faculty of Industrial Chemistry at the University of Bologna, Italy, visited CERN for 3 days as part of their final year seminar programme. ALICE’s Rosario Nania and Despina Hatzifotiadou, from INFN Bologna, organised the visit. “They wanted to visit CERN because of the media popularity in the last few years and because of the technical developments achieved here,” Rosario explained.

A. Valente

The Industrial Chemistry Students at Point 2

They visited a range of CERN experiments and projects, such as ALICE, ATLAS, LINAC, The Computing Centre, and the Globe of Science and Innovation. “They also went to the SM18 magnet laboratory and were very interested in the technology of constructing the superconducting magnets; Luca Bottura and his team explained in a very simple way the many interesting aspects of this technology” said Rosario. The students also attended a series of lectures on CERN physics and detector technology. Rosario adds, “They found the lectures on photon detectors and the use of resistive paint to treat glass, such as in our Time Of Flight detector, especially interesting; Most of the students will work in laboratories where some of these technologies are also used. But of course the high point of the visit was when they went down to the ALICE experiment with the guidance of young researchers from Bologna and Salerno. They asked many questions and wanted to prolong their tour as much as possible (but our safety officer Fernando Pedrosa was carefully watching!).”

The students provided feedback of their visit and the atmosphere and life they found at CERN (quotes translated from Italian):

“Having the possibility to “physically” enter in the heart of the research of CERN has been an experience not only incredibly instructive, but also interesting, stimulating and above all special. While we were at CERN we were able to touch the culture, the enthusiasm and the desire to share the knowledge of all those working there, all of them people who turned out to be kind and available… also ready to clarify every doubt that we had, making us part of their experiments and their research…”

“I left for CERN thinking of this classification of scientists where physicists have chemists under their feet. I came back having understood that “our” and “their” objectives are different but that (if we don’t exactly support each other) we could cover each other‘s back at the same level. I was honoured to see my compatriots: they were serene, and above all they were not spending their time to pity themselves because there is somebody more equipped. It was an excursion, but I listened; it was only a wink, but this tunnel now looks familiar. CERN has not increased very much my sympathy for the category of physicists, but there something really attractive exists: scientists, technology and competence.”

“I was a bit intimidated by the authority of CERN. However, the welcome and the patience of our guides from the ALICE team has been one of the best, and the warm and professional climate made me feel at ease.”

“At CERN I spent lovely and interesting days. Thanks to so many kind and available persons who welcomed us and patiently guided us around the laboratory, showing us how their work is done, I was able to understand something more about the universe of physics, discovering a fascination that I had not suspected.”

“Arriving at CERN knowing nothing about particle physics I was almost certain that I would not understand much of what I was going to see. I had to change my mind when I found myself with persons who could explain complex concepts in a simple and very interesting way. I was struck by the enthusiasm and the imagination with which they work on their project. And then the visit to ALICE... what to say. Really exciting.”

“The visit to CERN has been a really fascinating experience, which allowed us to come closer to and understand better the complicated themes of research that takes place here. In particular I was amazed by the size, integration and multicultural aspect of a centre which, by its constitution, brings together thousands of researchers coming from all over the world. An intellectually stimulating place for those who, like us, are about to finish their university studies and face the world of work or of research.”

“I sincerely did not know what to expect when we had the confirmation that we would be going to CERN, I certainly expected instruments smaller that whole warehouses! The atmosphere in these halls is something indescribable... In my opinion there is no need to consider CERN as something of science fiction or as if it were a centre of answers to impossible questions (it also does this); but rather as a big organization of scientists prepared to work night and day to investigate, search and sometimes find the ‘why’ of all things. A special thanks goes to Rosario Nania, a very nice person and of a unique friendliness, without whom I would never have imagined to be able to live, with my companions, an experience of this type.”

“The experience I lived at CERN has offered me a lot, because it gave me the possibility to touch with my hands something that many only dream of.”