by Virginia Greco. Published: 04 August 2017

Francesca Alemanno tells us about her experience as a CERN summer student in ALICE.


I think that participating in this programme is a unique opportunity for us to grow as physicists and as human beings,” states Francesca Alemanno, one of the ALICE summer students at CERN who shared with us their impressions about this experience. She arrived in Geneva at the beginning of July travelling from her hometown, Lecce, in Italy. “I came here alone and didn’t know anybody, but I immediately found people willing to help and made new friends.

Francesca holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Physics from the University of Salento and is now attending Master courses in Experimental Physics of Fundamental Interactions at the same institution. At the end of her first year in these studies, she decided to apply to the CERN Summer Student Programme in order to improve her knowledge of particle physics and data analysis, while also getting the feeling of what it is like to work in a real physics experiment.

The project she is involved in, which is led by Cristina Terrevoli and Andrea Festanti, focuses on the study of the v3, the third Fourier coefficient of the azimuthal distribution of particles (produced in the collision) in the plane perpendicular to the beam direction. In particular, the objective of the project is to implement analysis techniques and software tools to study the v3 coefficient within the ALICE analysis framework for the D0 meson and test them on data from Pb-Pb collisions at 5.02 TeV energy per nucleon in the centre of mass.

This experience allows Francesca to improve her technical skills and enrich her background in fundamental physics. In fact, even though she had already experience in coding and in particular in using the ROOT package, she had to get acquainted with the ALICE analysis environment and with the physics of heavy ions. “I had already learnt the basics of this field of physics at the University,” she highlights, “but doing analysis and working on real data is a completely different matter”.

In the morning she normally follows the lectures foreseen by the programme, while in the afternoon she works in her office. Living in the CERN hostel, everything is close by: “I need to walk only two minutes to go to class or to my office, it is amazing!” comments Francesca. But what she finds even more exciting is the human experience, because she has the occasion to meet people from so many countries and share bits of culture and folklore. “We find ourselves immersed in a unique and fascinating environment,” she explains, “where every day we can get to know peers who come from different countries, maybe places where now it is wintertime or in which women need to wear a veil over their heads when they are in public. You can even meet people who believe that pasta is a side dish instead of a main one,” she laughs. “The common engine is the thirst for knowledge, the aim to understand more about the universe around us and - why not? - the reason for us being on this planet. And everyone is always ready to give you a hand or a smile and make you feel at home.”

In addition to pursuing her studies in physics, Francesca plays the classic guitar – she got a diploma of music a couple of years ago – and sports. During summer she normally works as a bartender in a beach resort, but not this year… “I am far from my family and friends, far from the sea… Nevertheless, I think it will be a fantastic summer!