by Gustaw Matulewicz. Published: 27 April 2012

As you may have inferred from my name, I come from Poland. But do I? Well, in fact, I come from France! To be precise, I come from both. I was born in Warsaw and lived there most of my life. But it's nearly 5 years since I left home to study in France. I first studied in Versailles at a classe prépa. It is a very specific French alternative to university. Usually, when people get the baccalauréat, they leave the lycée – but not those who go to classe prépa. They follow, as I did, a two year preparatory programme to pass French Grandes Écoles selective exams. I was admitted to École Polytechnique and am still studying there.

Gustaw Matulewicz

Gustaw Matulewicz

When people ask where I study, I usually answer “Paris”. However, that is not exact. Our campus is in the south of Paris and is quite isolated. In comparison, CERN surroundings are really attractive! To have a supermarket at walking distance is something new to me. In fact everything is close here. I greatly appreciate the fast connection to the centre of Geneva, which I use a lot.

So what am I doing here? To end my M1 (first year of Masters), I have to do a research internship. Only an internship, which means, sadly, I won't be here for very long. But I hope 3 months will be enough to discover CERN a little, while working on my subject of hadron coalescence.

What I am doing here is not exactly what I had imagined before coming... Back at École Polytechnique I am studying quite theoretical physics. I was always attracted by theory, as it allies mathematics and physics. In fact, I went to classe prépa in order to study both... But for this internship, I wanted to try some real experimentation, with computers, programming, data analysis and all those sorts of things. I felt quite funny when we started doing theoretical calculations on a whiteboard. Simple calculations, my CERN supervisor said, but I started to doubt it when he himself couldn't find the solution.

So he took some old papers, some of them in Cyrillic, and started looking for the answer. But as you might imagine, it's not easy to understand notes you wrote 30 years ago. So he left me saying “I have to think about it”. Fortunately, the next morning, he had good news. “I understood it,” he said, and after the explanation, added, “I also had an idea, but I was falling asleep when I thought about it, so I'm not sure if it's any good”. Impressive! I hope one day I will think about physics problems while going to sleep, and not about what I can write for that Alice Matters article.

When I go back to my school in 3 months I’ll be sure of one thing, I will have met truly passionate physicists. I also really appreciate the international atmosphere here. I think I have never met so many different nationalities. The question is: why would anyone here want to travel?