In this issue, ALICE Matters chatted with Sabyasachi Siddhanta – known to his colleagues as Gudda, or sometimes Saby – who is ALICE’s current period run coordinator for this month of May. Siddhanta, who started his career at CERN as an engineer, has been working with ALICE since 2006.
Sabyasachi SiddhantaSabyasachi Siddhanta, ALICE's current period run coordinator
Hello, Sabyasachi. What do you do here at ALICE?
At present? My institute has just recently joined in the upgrade program of the Silicon Pixel Detector - which will also include an upgrade to the Muon Spectrometer – so, we’ve joined this collaboration, and we are starting to get to work on this - and will continue to do so for a few years.
For the last two years I have worked on the development and commissioning of the readout system of the ALICE Zero Degree Calorimeters; presently I am responsible for its maintenance and for any future upgrade to this readout system.
Apart from that, I am also one of the system run coordinators of the Di-muon Tracking Chambers of ALICE. Here, my job is to coordinate different activities, as far as the muon tracking chambers are concerned, and to ensure its smooth operation within ALICE.
Presently, for the month of May, I am also the period run coordinator of ALICE - my responsibility is to coordinate all the activities in ALICE; to cater to the different needs of the various detectors and to make plans for ALICE according to the ongoing plans of the LHC itself.
How is that going so far?
It's going fine. From end of April to the beginning of May we took some physics data at 3.5 TeV followed by a couple of days of cosmic runs. Then the LHC had their machine development program when we organized and planned ourselves for the technical stop which started on 9th May. After the technical stop, of course, we will be returning back to doing physics.
On the personal front, being the period run coordinator is a learning experience for me, getting to know some more aspects of the different detectors of ALICE, and the LHC as a whole. It is a lot of responsibility, but things are easier with my friends in ALICE who are very helpful and accommodating.
How did you get into physics in the first place?
I never thought I'd be in physics. I started with chemistry, and then I switched to engineering. I started to work at ALICE in 2006, on the Di-muon High Level Trigger. This was the start of an automatic and logical transition slowly into particle physics.
When you are not doing physics, how do you like to spend your free time?
I have a lot of interests, which I like to indulge depending on how much time I have. I don't manage to do all the things together, but if I have the time, I try to do some of them!
I have deep interest in linguistics - especially historical linguistics – such as the origin of languages; how they develop; the similarities of languages in a group; the impact of society, culture or religion on languages; how they are written down - this sort of stuff.
Aside from this I also have a deep interest in the scientific achievements of ancient civilizations - I don't know too much about the subject, but I do like to study about it. It's really quite impressive, when you look back on different civilizations and see their achievements.
Apart from that - I like to write, especially travel logs - I like to write my experiences when I travel, short articles on that.
I also do some sports - I play football; I play cricket with the CERN cricket club; hiking, swimming and chess – in the future (when I will be at CERN some more) I would also like to learn some winter sports – like skiing and such. I would also love to learn fencing.
At some point of time in the future I would like to learn documentary film making.
So you don't spend all your time here at CERN?
No, I'm from the Department of Physics at INFN Cagliari - but I come back to CERN for a month or so every couple of months.
How do you find Italy?
I like it. I've been in Italy since 2006. It's a really nice place: I like the culture, the language, the people, the food - it's beautiful.
Do you miss India?
Of course - my family and a lot of my friends are there; but, you know - when I came to Italy, I didn't really have any of the problems that one would expect when going to a new place - because I found that there were so many similarities between India and Italy. The people are so friendly, that I didn't feel that they were any different from me.
So, that feeling really helped- and not only in Italy, but also in CERN. Working in ALICE is like working in a really big family!
What's your favourite thing about CERN?
You have this association with ALICE, and with CERN as a whole - and a few of my closest friends have been made out of this association – which is a really great thing.
Secondly, my first professional experience started with activities at ALICE – I think with time, you gain something – a certain approach and attitude to work. Your point of view, of how you look into things, changes with time.
The same things that we studied in school - when you work with those at this level; you look into things with a different approach - you can understand better the underlying philosophy. I mean, beyond the technicalities or the definitions or formulas or derivations - to understand the underlying philosophy as a whole - this comes with time, and experience, and my association with CERN.
Another thing which may seem contradictory, but is not so, that I learned from five years at CERN and INFN, is that this is just work - and that there is life beyond that. When you are a student you have some predefined notions about the field of research in general. When you are inside this field, however, you find that it is just another work.
There is a lot of academic and professional pressure, obviously - but the work environment at CERN, and in Italy, it is all an experience. It is a great learning curve for me - your work, your interests - how to look and reflect on life as a whole.
Do you have any specific plans for the future?
At present, I just like that I’m doing something that I enjoy. After five years, I may find myself assisting a documentary film crew in some rainforests, or teaching in a school, who knows.
It doesn't matter to me anymore what experiment I'm working for - or what I'm doing - as long as I enjoy it and as long as it doesn’t hamper the life beyond that work.