by Iva Raynova. Published: 30 September 2016

Benjamin has been working with ALICE for the past ten years. He wrote his diploma thesis on the construction of the first Transition Radiation Detector (TRD) supermodule. Currently a member of the Goethe University Frankfurt, Institute of Nuclear Physics, Benjamin has been the TRD calibration coordinator since 2013. “In principle the calibration of the TRD is run by Offline automatically. They submit the jobs, but then you have to check if everything works nicely. If not, you get a report and you check the log. Then you see which processes have failed. TRD is a gas detector and there are many different things to be calibrated. It is not easy, but it usually works out. When something is not working, it is quite a hard job to find out what is wrong.”

Even with the experience he has gained so far, every now and then Benjamin still has to deal with issues he hasn’t yet encountered. “This usually causes delays, sometimes a manual intervention is needed. But I have to admit, solving problems is exciting. I like to encounter new things which challenge me. You have to have fun while doing your job. Otherwise you will not like it and you will simply not do it properly.”

Benjamin is convener of the Nuclei and Exotica physics analysis group. He also takes shifts as Shift Leader in the Control Centre and he spent two weeks in September as Run Manager. These are some of the few times he manages to visit CERN, mainly because of his teaching duties at Frankfurt. “I work with Bachelor and Master students. I teach analysis methods in high-energy physics. It is a combination of C++, ROOT, a bit of statistics and then real methods which they can use in their analyses later on. This I enjoy even more. It is the same as doing analysis or convening a group – you have people you can cooperate with and help them solve problems.”

Benjamin is only one step away from becoming a lecturer. “In one written document I have to sum up all the physics I have done so far. It has to be handed to the faculty, then it is refereed. Afterwards you have to give several talks. This process is called habilitation and I am currently working on that.”

For Benjamin the decision to study and work in the field came after he attended a physics colloquium while still at high school. “Before that I was split between chemistry and physics. At some point I was also considering to study theology. But I liked the theory talk at the colloquium so much that my decision was final. After that I went to study physics at the Technical University in Darmstadt. For a while I wanted to be a theorist. Then the courses got more and more difficult and I moved to experimental physics just before I had to write my diploma thesis. Although my academic path wasn’t as smooth and I had some deviations along the way, I am still very happy with where I wound up.”

According to Benjamin, the life of the physicist is busy and dynamic, but still enjoyable. Whenever he can find some free time, he spends it with his fiancée and with his mother. For his future he wishes he could continue teaching and working in ALICE. “When I started working on the TRD calibration, we had three main directions and I was responsible for all three of them. First, recalibration and reconstruction of all Run 1 data. Then we had the preparation for Run 2. Now that it has started, there is new data coming in that has to be calibrated. And we are also preparing the upcoming Run 3, when everything in the TRD will be different. The data from it should also be calibrated. So I hope there will be a place for me in ALICE for a while.”