by Virginia Greco. Published: 11 August 2017

Florian Jonas and Hannah Bossi talk about their experience as CERN summer students in the ALICE experiment.

Florian and Hannah are now very good friends, even though they met only a couple of months ago in their office at CERN, where they sit one next to the other. Coming from Germany and the US respectively, they are participating in the CERN summer student programme developing a project in ALICE.

Florian Jonas is at his first year of Master in Physics at the University of Münster, Germany, while Hannah Bossi is concluding her Bachelor at the Colby College in Maine, US. Both are really enthusiastic about the experience they are living and accepted to share with us some of their impressions.

When I decided to apply to this programme, I was very excited about the opportunity to go to CERN and meet people of my age coming from so many different places and cultures,” Hannah tells with a big smile on her face. “I also wanted to explore particle physics more and get some hands-on experience.

It is a very cool programme, indeed,” adds Florian, “for the people you can meet, for the work experience in the ‘real world’ of experimental physics, and also because you get to live in a different country for a while”.

Besides following the lectures and the workshops foreseen by the programme, they are working in data analysis on different but related projects.

Hannah is studying neutral Kaons (K0_s) via their decays into neutral pions, which can be reconstructed in ALICE using their decay into two photons, mainly analysing data from pp collisions at 8 TeV energy in the centre of mass. She was given some models to work on and, under the supervision of Markus Fasel, she is writing the code needed and getting some experience with data analysis.

Florian’s project focuses on the study of the omega (ω) and the eta (η) meson in pp collisions at a centre-of-mass energy of 7 and 8 TeV, through the reconstruction of its decays in p+/p-/p0  using the data samples collected by ALICE in 2010 and 2012. Supervised by Friederike Bock, he is building up on what he learned working on his Bachelor’s thesis, which was about omega meson reconstruction on a set of simulated data.

I am really happy with the group I am working with, because we really collaborate and discuss things,” Florian comments enthusiastically. “In addition, I get to give talks in group meetings, which makes me feel part of a scientific community and allows me to practice speaking in front of an audience, something that will be very useful in my future career.

Already convinced to go for a Ph.D, both Florian and Hannah are passionate about heavy-ion physics and would like to stay in this field.

When I started my Bachelor’s thesis, I knew I was interested in particle physics, but I was not sure about the topic to choose and at that point I didn’t know much about heavy-ion physics,” Florian explains. “I started working in this field almost by chance and I liked it, I find it a very interesting branch of physics. With nuclei collisions at LHC we are able to create the QGP, which is something that was there at the beginning of the history of the Universe: getting to probe this era is amazing.”

It is also fascinating to think about the complexity of the systems we are working with,” adds Hannah; “we have to explore very busy events and try to find the one thing we are interested in. Of course the case of p-p collisions is analogous, but I like the fact that nuclei collisions are more complex and thus, for me, more interesting.

During their stay at CERN, Hannah and Florian have also had the opportunity to attend the ALICE week meetings that took place in July and they even volunteered to collaborate in setting up the space at point 2 for the summer party. “It was very cool, because everybody was coming to CERN and meeting their friends they hadn’t seen for long time,” Hannah comments. “I really got the sense of how close the collaboration is and I am happy to be part of a community like that”.

Between lectures, workshops and their work projects, the schedule of Florian and Hannah is pretty busy. Nevertheless they are profiting of this time also to network and have fun with their new friends. “We are in a group with other summer students staying at the CERN hostel,” explains Florian, “we cook dinner together and hang out. On weekends we often go to Geneva, we also go swimming or hiking in the region.

I have definitely been using my free time to travel, because of course it is so much less expensive than it would be from the US,” Hannah remarks. “I went to France, of course; then to Italy, to Germany and to Spain: it has been a very fun summer exploring the area. I also enjoyed a lot swimming in the lake of Geneva.

But time flies and soon they will have to go back to their home countries to continue with their studies. In particular, Hannah has to leave in August because normally University courses in the US starts earlier than in Europe.

I would like to stay longer, but I have to leave because my courses are starting soon: it’s sad,” admits Hannah. “I will be happy to see my family, of course, but I will miss people and things here. I would love to come back later for a longer period, definitely... It has been a fantastic experience”.

Yes, absolutely,” Florian agrees nodding.