by Baptiste Ravina & Panos Charitos. Published: 29 April 2014

In the morning of Saturday 5 April twenty students who had previously participated in "Researcher's Night" at CERN visited ALICE. This was not a usual visit, as it was organised in the frame of the International Masterclasses in particle physics. In their presentations, Despina Hatzifotiadou and Giacinto de Cataldo gave an overview of ALICE while the students had the chance to visit the cavern. In the afternoon, the students had to do some digging in real ALICE data. Under the guidance of Despina Hatzifotiadou, Xitzel Sanchez Castro and Giacomo Volpe they got some interesting results that were later presented during a video-conference with colleagues in Warsaw, Cairo and Cape Town. During the video-conference the students had the chance to discuss the details of the physics involved in their exercise. We asked Baptiste Ravina, a physics student who participated in the ALICE Masterclass to share some of his thoughts.

As a Physics student at the University of London, previously living in the Geneva area, I had of course heard about CERN, and had visited it a few times; yet, I never really had the chance to witness it from the inside. I was therefore delighted to be invited to participate in a master class at ALICE, last April. It was for me an opportunity to discover precisely what kind of research was carried out there, throughout a busy yet rewarding day in the company of world-leading physicists.

The morning was spent learning more about the functioning of the LHC, the role of the ALICE detector, and what kind of results had been achieved by the experiment, but also how particle physics might evolve in the near future, and how CERN was a major influence in the shaping of this future. What struck me most about this series of lectures was the way these physicists, working at the forefront of science, were nonetheless able to communicate knowledge to a group of twenty or so young students, who ranged from high school students discovering fundamental mechanics to university students like myself, somewhat already familiar with heavy-ion and particle physics. Yet we all learned something, and every question we had, however advanced it might be, was always answered at an appropriate level, with an insight that only an expert could give.

The afternoon was more practical, as we had the chance to analyze data from collisions in the detector, working with the same equipment that researchers use; the master class ended after an hour-long web conference with other students from all around the world (Warsaw, Cairo and Cape Town) who followed a similar program, and we got to share our results and engage in fruitful conversation about our understanding of Heavy-Ion Physics.

All in all, I would say it was a very beneficial experience for me, and I am now convinced that I want to pursue my studies in High Energy Physics and, who knows, maybe one day work at CERN.