The number of Latin Americans working on the MINERvA experiment is unusual for a high-energy physics experiment. Among our Latin American collaborators, you’ll find professors, postdocs, graduate students and undergraduate students from countries such as Mexico, Brazil, Peru and Chile.
In my particular case, I am from Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María in Valparaíso, Chile. I recently had the opportunity and honor to be at Fermilab for five months working on two different projects. This experience was really exciting and challenging. I really learned a lot of physics and programming, understood more deeply how the experiment works, improved my English, and had the opportunity to meet and work directly with many experienced people in the field.
In terms of my personal life, it was a bit difficult to get accustomed to all the changes, such as language, food and geographical distances (my commute in Chile is just a five-minute walk). And once I got used to these, it started snowing. When I was first told about the weather at Fermilab, I said, “Oh come on. You must be exaggerating”, but clearly I was wrong. I really enjoyed meeting all the people in the collaboration and was interested to find out that Spanish from other Latin American countries is quite different – most people were not able to understand me when I used my spoken Chilean-Spanish. But now all those difficulties are just memories, thanks to the help Guiliano (my Chilean partner and roommate) and I received from the other Latin American folks at Fermilab.
When I returned to Chile a month ago, I realized that it would have been much more difficult to have this opportunity 10 years ago. I am really thankful for the efforts of Fermilab and the MINERvA experiment to make this possible, as well as the joint efforts that the Latin American Universities and their governments have made.
The fact that the number of Latin Americans in the MINERvA experiment is large is evidence of the science development which has started in our region. It also reinforces the importance of the efforts that institutions and governments are making to achieve the altruistic goal of developing science in their countries.
I would like to thank Jorge Morfin, who is working really hard to make collaborations like this possible; William Brooks, who is the leader of the experimental high-energy group of Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María and who keeps working to maintain and give the same opportunity to other Latin American students; and Deborah Harris and Kevin McFarland, the spokespersons of the experiment. I also want to thank the whole MINERvA collaboration who is doing a really nice job and pushing really hard to obtain the results the physics community is waiting for.
– Cristian Peña
*Read about Cristian earning the Fulbright award