Mike’s initial decision was to study electrical engineering and electronics. Then, while doing an internship, he met a colleague studying applied physics. The conversations they had made Mike change his mind. “This was the first trigger. After that I started to read some of the popular works in physics, the biography of Richard Feynman and his works. That really sparked my interest in physics. It’s fascinating how human beings stuck on a planet can make a device showing what nature is really made of. With a lot of data and effort we can actually find out how it all works. For tiny human beings, this is an incredible accomplishment. Another very nice aspect is that all this is done in a huge collaboration between many countries. Understanding more, that’s the real fascination. Pushing the boundaries of knowledge. This is why I want to do physics.”
At the end of his Bachelor programme in applied physics, Mike did an internship in ALICE, working on neutral kaons. In 2014 he completed his Bachelor and he started a Master programme at the Utrecht University, the Netherlands. He had one full year of courses, after which he came back to ALICE as part of the 2015 summer student programme. His second year as Master student he spent in ALICE, doing full-time research. “As summer student I worked on neutral mesons. I finished that and together with a group of analysers we are now in the paper writing stage, something I am quite happy about. This will be part of my Master thesis, but the main topic is on direct photon flow.” Recently Mike was offered a PhD position by his current supervisor.
Mike has another important role in ALICE – he was recently elected as one of the Juniors representatives. Even before he became a candidate for the position, he already had some ideas on how to make the juniors’ lives better. “The first idea I had was to make a tool kit for newcomers. Not just for juniors, but for anyone who joins the collaboration. It would contain more information on how to get started, what to do when you want to do an analysis. Right now there are a lot of tutorials and presentations but all the information is scattered. I would like to combine it in one place, to make it coherent and to fill some gaps. I would like to make sure that the new people in ALICE know where to go when they want to learn how to do an analysis.” He would also like to stimulate more fruitful discussions within the Juniors group. “I would like to create an atmosphere where new physics results can be discussed, since there are new papers constantly being published. It is not enough to only communicate the problems we encounter with our analysis. It would be a real physics discussion.”
One really big passion Mike has is playing the piano. “I started playing when I was 20. That was also the time when I switched to physics. Maybe I just woke up from this teenager state and I realised that there are plenty of interesting things to do out there and that I should focus on them.” When the weather allows it, he also likes to do mountain biking. “It’s the adrenaline and the endurance that I like the most. Sometimes I go on five-hour trips. When you have a friend or two with you, it feels like you are going on a big adventure together. It clears your mind and it is also a very nice workout.”