by Iva Raynova. Published: 30 September 2016

A talented artist, an even more talented physicist and a problem-solver, Friederike loves every second she spends in ALICE. 

With a lot of hard work, ambition and passion, up to this point Friederike had a very smooth path through the physics field. Her Journey in ALICE began in 2008 as a Bachelor student in her second semester. She spent a week as a technical assistant for the High Level Trigger (HLT), pulling and labelling cables in one of the computing rooms in the ALICE cavern. “It was so much different from my courses, which were very basic and theoretical. We didn’t have much hands-on work at the university at that time. Also, the atmosphere here was so different and amazing. I loved it!”

For her Bachelor thesis she joined the Heidelberg University ALICE group of Prof. Johanna Stachel. “I did estimates of the material budget of the inner detectors – the Inner Tracking System (ITS) and the Time Projection Chamber (TPC). We were using the photons produced in the collisions to make wonderful X-ray pictures of the whole detector. This way we found that the composition of some of the resistors on the ITS chips wasn’t correct. They were made of a heavier material. Together with our detector experts, we found and fixed many of these little details in the simulation and we decreased the material error from twenty to five percent. That was crucial for many of the analyses.” Later she used the same reconstruction technique for photons from the Run 1 data to write her Master thesis on neutral pions and eta mesons in Pb-Pb collisions. Currently Friederike is a PhD student on a joint programme between the Heidelberg University, Germany, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, USA. She does analysis on direct photon production and she is also involved in the fine tuning of the response of the Electromagnetic Calorimeter (EMCal) in the simulations.

In September Friederike spent two weeks as Run Manager. “It is my first time as Run Manager, but not my first time in the Control Centre. I am also taking shifts as Shift Leader. Now I am doing mostly coordination – making sure that all shifters are up to speed, that everything runs smoothly, that we don’t have major hiccups. While as Shift Leader you take care of your crew and make sure that the instructions you get from the Run Coordination team are well translated in the actual running.” Well familiar with the atmosphere in the Control Centre and with a lot of gained experience, Friederike was invited to be one of the Shift Leaders during the most important period for ALICE – the proton-lead physics run in November.

Not even having completed her PhD, Friederike already has three published papers behind her. An accomplishment due to her dedication and to her contagious passion for physics. Just 16 years old, she had visited the Heidelberg University and attended lectures there for a week. “This is when I decided that I don’t want to do anything else but physics.” Initially she wanted to study astrophysics, but the lectures in astronomy were not as interesting as she expected. “Then I chose to take a different path and I headed towards particle physics. It is on the other side of the spectrum but it connects very nicely with astrophysics. Heavy-ion physics is basically astrophysics, only in the lab. I love this aspect of physics – how everything is connected.”

Friederike’s goal for the future is to stay in the field for as long as possible. Also, if the opportunity arises, she would love to become a professor. “I love to teach! I supervise a lot of students. I love transferring to them the knowledge I have and I always try to push them to their limits.” Having the proper motivation is one of the most important things she looks for in her students. “If they are excited, I don’t mind explaining things multiple times. I think that without motivation you cannot survive in the field, you will eventually destroy yourself. You have to love what you’re doing, especially in a highly competitive field such as ours.” Once per year Friederike visits her old high school and teaches particle physics to 16 to 18-year-old students. Last year she organised a three-day cloud chamber workshop. She also does the ALICE RAA masterclass with them. “I designed this masterclass during my internship at GSI in collaboration with other people. With it the students can discover which signals we measure in the detectors and how we connect all of them together to reconstruct tracks. Then we do a simple multiplicity analysis using event displays and simple counting. However, when later we ask them to do the same in a central Pb-Pb event, they realize that there has to be a smarter way. That's why we give them an introduction to larger scale analysis in the second part, doing an RAA analysis based on event trees we prepared. Here they also learn a bit about coding. We have a lot of fun together.”

Whenever she has free time, Friederike likes to do sports – she plays volleyball, she runs and she swims. “It can’t be all about work. You need balance, you need time for yourself.” She is also an artist, a musician and a singer. Another hobby of hers is to make personal mugs for the people she works with closely. “All my colleagues have their own analyses as event display on a mug. I like to make them feel appreciated. It really helps the team spirit.”