Published: 11 September 2011

This week, ALICE Matters interviewed Patrick Scott, a British PhD student who comes from the University of Birmingham.

Patrick Scott

ALICE student Patrick Scott

How long have you been working with ALICE?

I'm in the second year of my PhD now; so, I started here, in the summer, two years ago - but I've only been at CERN for the last year.

What do you do here at ALICE?

Well, I work on angular correlations, looking at jets. Di-hadron correlations are a way of analysing jets without having to reconstruct each jet separately - you look at the effects of all of them together. Often you see it used with things, like when they observe the presence of quark gluon plasma through jet quenching - the correlations are quite a standard method for looking at that.

Up until relatively recently it's been the only jet analysis method that people could use in heavy ion collisions - because the events are so busy, with so many tracks they are difficult to directly reconstruct - there are many non-jet tracks overlapping with the jets - and you have to separate those somehow.

There have been a lot of analyses done at RHIC on this kind of thing - and a lot done at ALICE - so it's quite a big area of analysis.

How did you get into particle physics in the first place?

When I picked my A-levels - for non-UK people, they're the exams you take when you're eighteen – I wasn't sure whether I wanted to do physics and maths any further; but I thought I'd done quite well in them at school and so they were obvious subjects to do.

Then, I really enjoyed the physics lessons at A-level - and I had a really good teacher - so when I finished sixth form I decided to do a physics degree.

The lectures that I enjoyed most in that degree were in particle physics - and CERN was in the news at that time as well, which was obviously quite inspiring. So I guess that's why I ended up doing particle physics.

What did you like about the lessons?

Partly I just found the physics interesting - sort of the most fundamental physics in some sense - and partly I liked the people lecturing it as well. It makes a really big difference, the lecturer.

What do you see in your future?

I'm not sure. I'll think about it as I finish my PhD. If I enjoy it, then I'll consider applying for a postdoc; that sort of thing. I haven't made up my mind yet - I'm sort of keeping my options open.

If you had to give advice to, say, a high school student who was interested in working at CERN, what would you say?

Well, the one thing I've learnt from doing university open days is that, if you are interested in physics, then do maths at A-level. I saw a lot of people come to the open days wanting to do physics, but they hadn’t done maths A-level. It's a shame; they were obviously very keen on physics, but without the maths, they couldn't do it.

What would you say your favourite thing about CERN is?

I love working with people from all around the world, from different countries - I'm from quite a small place in the middle of the countryside, in Herefordshire, so it's quite nice to be working with people from all over the world - and, you know, people are very accepting and accommodating here.

So, when you’re not doing physics, how do you like to spend your time?

I like rock climbing, swimming and reading books.

Is this area good for rock-climbing?

Yes, it's good; there's lots of climbing near here. I haven't done quite as much as I planned since I moved out, because of work and so on - but it’s certainly a good area to live for that kind of thing.

Do you find it difficult, living abroad?

I think I settled in quite quickly - there's quite a big UK community at CERN - so there's always people you know here.

Do you speak French?

I can speak just about enough to get by. I did French at school and I think I've gotten more competent at the French I already knew - I don't think I’ve learnt a lot of new French, unfortunately. Which is a shame, because I wanted to learn to speak French a bit better, when I moved out here.