Where can you find students from 71 different countries in one room? CERN’s Summer Student Programme is the place. This year, it attracted 269 talented young scientists. They attend lectures in the morning and contribute to real research projects in the afternoon. The lectures cover topics of interest at CERN from detector and accelerator principles to theoretical models, as well as computing and analysis techniques. I talked to some of the students to see how they were getting on.
Akram Etemadi from Iran was surprised to see that CERN buildings were so old. “I expected to see lots of modern instruments,” she says. Akram is enjoying her first experience of living abroad. “I love the freedom here, I can go anywhere, and without a hijab, especially while running. Here, my opinion counts whereas oftentimes in Iran, a woman’s opinion is discounted.” Akram is especially pleased with the dedication and support of her supervisor. “She told me a lot about dark matter and encourages me to learn ROOT,” (a program widely used in physics analysis).
For Michael Borinsky from Germany, the experience is quite different. “Everything here is pretty much like at home,” he says. CERN even reminds him of his university campus. But the wide diversity of people in the programme makes a big difference. “I was at the supermarket with a Cuban student. He was all excited to find various items that are impossible to find in Cuba. But for me, they were just ordinary products. It allowed me to experience things very differently.”
Yu-Dai Tsai from Taiwan heard about the programme through a Chinese friend. Both were accepted. “Here you have a chance to meet and learn from the bests from all over the world, both experimentalists and theorists,” he says enthusiastically. “You can start talking to someone in the restaurant to find out he is a Nobel laureate, or had proposed an important theoretical idea, or is in charge of a huge experimental project," he adds. Yu-Dai is applying to PhD programmes and hopes to come back to work at CERN.
All the students mentioned how much they enjoy meeting people from all over the world. Cristina’s comment sums it nicely: “This programme gave me the opportunity to learn a lot of new things, do something interesting every day and, of course, make new friends,” she says.
If you or someone you know is interested in participating, apply in early January.
This is an edited version of a blog post that originally appeared on the Quantum Diaries blog