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CERN | Geneva | Switzerland

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The CERN Summer School Programme: unique in many ways

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.

For Michael Borinsky from Germany, the experience is could be very ordinary. “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.”

Michael likes the lectures, though many topics are familiar to this masters student in particle physics. “It’s like reading a really good book for the second time, you always get something new,” he smiles.

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.

Cenk Türkoğlu from Turkey received one of the Engin Arik fellowships. This fellowship based on merit was set up after professor Arik’s tragic death in a plane crash to continue her life-long work of supporting gifted Turkish students. Cenk plans to write his thesis on data from the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02) – a cosmic ray and dark matter experiment onboard the International Space Station. He got to meet the six astronauts who brought the experimental setup into space.

“CERN has a very beautiful study environment so it makes you want to study and learn more. Lectures are also really good for us to develop insights on many different subjects,” he says.

Cristina Turcu from Romania is studying advanced techniques for computer graphics, multimedia and virtual reality in Bucharest. She is currently programming a graphic simulator. “This project suits me perfectly because it combines my specialty with physics and maths, two fields I liked in school,” she explains.

Cristina particularly likes the way the programme is structured. “A summer student can work at a very interesting project, learn about other experiments at the lectures and have a chance to go on visits, workshops and meet famous people,” she says.

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.

Pauline Gagnon

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