by Virginia Greco. Published: 09 May 2017

Interview with Jussi Viinikainen, a Ph.D. student at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, who was ALICE run manager from 5 to 18 April.

Jussi Viinikainen, ALICE run manager from 5 to 18 April, is a Ph.D. student at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. We met when he was ready to leave CERN to go back to his homeland; he will return soon, though, for another run manager shift. At the moment he travels back and forth, but he hopes to get a fellowship to be able to continue his career at CERN.

He visited CERN for the first time as a summer student when he was still attending physics undergraduate courses in Jyväskylä. After obtaining his Master’s degree, Jussi embarked on a Ph.D. in physics at the same University within the ALICE experiment. To his great excitement, he got a grant to spend two years at CERN, where he could enhance his knowledge of the ALICE detector and heavy ion physics, and, most of all, become deeply involved in the experiment. “When you work from away you can feel distant and isolated,” Jussi commented, “coming to CERN made me really feel as part of the collaboration”.

Now he is back in Jyväskylä - but he comes regularly to CERN for shifts and meetings – where he is focusing on completing his Ph.D. thesis, which he is likely to defend in fall this year.

The main topic of his research is the study of jet fragmentation in pp collisions (analysis that he is performing on data taken in 2010) and p-Pb collisions (on data of 2013). The natural continuation of this research would be the study of the same phenomenon in Pb-Pb collisions, activity that he will probably carry out if he remains in ALICE after graduating. “I applied to the fellowship programme of CERN, which would be a very good opportunity for me; if I don’t get it, I will look for some postdoctoral position somewhere else”. Not in Finland though, as he pointed out, because academic career requires young researchers to spend a period of time after their Ph.D. within an institution of another country.

“This could also mean changing experiment,” Jussi explained, “Nevertheless, most probably I will continue to work in heavy ion physics, since I have expertise mainly in this field”. In any case, he would prefer to remain in Europe: “I am not really interested in going to work in US, maybe I could consider some eastern countries such as Japan, but Europe would be my first choice.”

As required by doctoral programmes in physics, Jussi combined his work on data analysis with hardware development activities. In particular, he wrote and commissioned parts of firmware for the Level 0 trigger of the Electromagnetic Calorimeter, and he was also the expert on call for it during part of his stay at CERN.

After many shifts in the ALICE control room covering different roles, he was asked to take the responsibility of being run manager, experience that he enjoyed and will repeat soon. “I like control room shifts, because they allow me to get an overall view of the experiment and a better idea of the kind of things that happen during runs”, commented Jussi.

However, analysis is his real love, as he admitted: “I like writing pieces of code to analyze data and interpret them in order to unveil the mysteries of nature”.

Besides physics, Jussi is keen on board games and volleyball, which - when he lived in the CERN area - he could practice regularly as a member of the dedicated CERN clubs.