by Iva Raynova. Published: 28 February 2016

Winner of the ALICE Best Thesis award for 2015

Simone has been a part of the ALICE team since 2009, when she started her PhD in the Goethe University Frankfurt. The first two years she spent in doing quality checks of the first ALICE data, taken during Run 1, and also in assisting to prepare some first ALICE papers for publication. Then, in 2011 she started to do analysis, the results of which later turned out to be an award-winning thesis.

“I was investigating the momentum distribution of two kinds of strange particles in lead-lead collisions. Then I did the same in proton-proton collisions, because I wanted to see if and how the momentum distributions differs. I gave my best in writing my thesis. But there are so many hard working people and good theses in ALICE, that I thought the chance to receive the award was very small. I was really surprised when I found out and I’m happy that it happened” – she says.

The decision to work in the field of physics analysis Simone made during her Master: “I didn’t really like to work with electronics, because I damage more than I do right. But I have always loved CERN and the physics that is being done here. In the fourth semester I had a tour at CERN with my professor. I was really fascinated by the detectors and by the visualisation of some events that I had the chance to see. In this moment I knew that this is what I want to do.”

The opportunity to do some programming while having the freedom to be creative was the other reason Simone immediately accepted the position she was offered in ALICE. “What I found quite interesting was the fact that with analysis you can make invisible things visible – like the particles and the tracks they make in the detectors.”

Looking back in her high school years, Simone remembers that her love for science started with chemistry. Then she understood that she could go further. “You can always ask yourself why things are happening in a certain way. And by doing this continuously, you may end up with physics. You want to know more and more and you discover particle physics and fundamental forces. There are many other things to be discovered and that is what drives me forward – the curiosity what is behind, and behind, and behind.”

Other than physics, Simone’s passion is to play the saxophone. She is a part of a symphonic wind band close to Frankfurt. She is even moderating concerts and preparing their programmes from time to time. “I like both music and physics. The correlation between them is the freedom and the regulations which exist simultaneously in them. When you make music, you play notes which are written down, but you can still interpret them. For example, you can play jazz, which is free of music sheets, but you still play in a scheme, you try to find the right notes which fit so that it sounds good. It’s the same in physics. You have laws, but if you want to discover something new, you sometimes have to transcend them. You can somehow be creative and analytic at the same time.”