by Virginia Greco. Published: 09 August 2017

Last June Robert Münzer, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Frankfurt, had his first two-week shift as an ALICE run manager. “It was quite intense,” he comments, “I spent a lot of time in the control room to make sure that everything was running smoothly. I liked the experience, even thought it was exhausting… Honestly, I didn’t get much sleep during the shift.

Robert carried out his undergraduate and graduate studies in physics at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), which is also his hometown, working for the FOPI and HADES experiment at GSI. He joined the ALICE collaboration as a member of the Time Projection Chamber (TPC) upgrade group at the latest stage of his PhD, when – besides dealing with data analysis – he was working for the GEM TPC programme at TUM, led by Prof. Laura Fabbietti. The objective of this project was to design a TPC based on Gas Electron Multiplier chambers.

After defending his PhD thesis in 2014, Robert continued to work at the University of Munich both on data analysis and on hardware. He spent there one year as a postdoc and then moved to the University of Frankfurt, to which is now affiliated, even though he is actually based at CERN, fully dedicated in the operation of the present TPC as System Run Coordinator and the development and tests for the TPC Upgrade.

I like very much working on detectors,” Robert explains. “What I like the most is trying to solve problems when they occur; I enjoy digging into the issue and, in particular, the feeling of satisfaction that comes when it is fixed.

Solving problems as quickly as possible is crucial as well when you are on shift in the control room, since during the run everything has to work at its best and the efficiency of data acquisition has to be kept high. “Being run manager is interesting also because it allows you to enhance your knowledge of the whole detector,” Robert adds. “Besides, you interact with the main experts of all the systems.

Robert plans to continue working on the TPC for a few more years, at least until the next long shut down (LS2), when it will be installed to replace the current one and commissioned. After that, he might embark on a new adventure. He would prefer to work at a laboratory rather then in academia, even though he likes tutoring students. “I am also looking for a permanent position,” he admits, “because, you know, I would appreciate to be in a more stable work condition”. A wish that does not surprise, in particular since Robert has two kids: a three-year-old son and a daughter of about one and a half years.

Whenever he has some spare time, he tries to stay with his family. “I chose to live quite close to CERN, so that it is easy for me to go home even for lunch or for a short break and see my children,” he recounts. “During my run manager shifts, for example, I would go home for dinner and then come back to point 2 after they had gone to bed.”