by Iva Raynova. Published: 30 July 2016

Eager to learn as much as he can and as fast as he can, Hugo Sonnery couldn’t wait to become 18 to graduate from high school. After skipping a few grades in school, today Hugo is 14 years old and he is already accepted to study physics and maths in a classe préparatoire aux grandes écoles (CPGE) in France. This is an intensive preparatory course, training the best students in the country for enrollment in one of the grandes écoles.

Hugo has been trying to find a way to join CERN as an intern for the past two years, or since he was only 12 years old. This year he finally achieved his goal with the help of Brigitte Cheynis and Antonio Uras, ALICE members from the Institut de Physique Nucléaire de Lyon (IPNL), and Despina Hatzifotiadou, ALICE outreach coordinator. In the spring he participated in an ALICE Masterclass in IPNL. “Mr. Uras gave us a lecture about the standard model. Then we analysed ALICE events. In the video conference in the end of the Masterclass I asked if I could be an intern at CERN” – explains Hugo.

During the two weeks in July which Hugo spent at CERN, he managed to witness multiple sides of the researchers’ lives. His mornings he spent in attending the summer students’ lectures in the Main Auditorium, while in the afternoons he was building a muon chamber with a group of American undergraduate students. “My experience was very well balanced. In the morning I was discovering physics in theory and in the afternoon in practice. I also visited the Microcosm exhibition, the Globe of science and innovation, the Synchrocyclotron, the magnets facility SM18. Ms. Cheynis gave me a tour at Point 2 and I built a cloud chamber in the S’Cool Lab. It was wonderful!”

While Hugo’s plans for the near future include an experience at CERN as a summer student, he is not completely sure which field he will choose for his career. “I’m not sure about what I want to do later – work in the field of physics research, mathematics, or be an entrepreneur. I don’t know yet. This internship is a way for me to discover what the life of a physicist is. But no matter what I choose, my goal is similar to the goal of the people at CERN – I want to make a big impact. Only with great ideas we can change the world.”

Hugo considers CERN to be the greatest example for a collaboration, where people from more than a hundred nationalities and different fields work together for a common cause. “I feel very grateful for the given opportunity and I want to specially thank Ms. Cheynis, Ms. Hatzifotiadou, Mr. Uras, my physics teacher Mr. Olivier Thévenet, the ALICE secretariat and everybody whom I met and who helped me acquire new skills.”