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Freya Blekman | USLHC | USA

View Blog | Read Bio

Cables and headscarves (or lack thereof)

Yesterday I returned from a three-day trip to Ankara, Turkey. The Turkish Atomic Energy Agency (TAEK) were kind enough to invite me to give tutorials on the CMS offline reconstruction software. I’ve been teaching these tutorials for a few years now, and really enjoy it as teaching is something I don’t do much of being at CERN (and I actually enjoy it, it must be in my genes with all the teachers in my family!) and it is always great to see people pick up things and make them their own. This time particularly I jumped at the invitation as I had never been to Turkey and love traveling. Actually, I think travel and seeing the world is one of the extra perks you get as a particle physicist. Also, I managed to get some nice snaps while I was there, but unfortunately I have mislaid the cable I use to connect my camera to my computer so I will have to disappoint you by not showing any photos. At least not until I’ve found my cable.

However, what I was amazed by, was the response I received from some otherwise sensible friends and colleagues, who were quite concerned for me and worried for my safety. I already was aware that Turkey is a very modern country, and definitely with (at least) one foot in Europe, but I actually received the baffling question (twice!) whether I would have to wear a vail or head scarf while I was there. So let me hereby confirm: In Ankara, Turkey people are very modern and are very proud (and aware) of that too. To break some more stereotypes, I had wonderful Turkish wine, pizza with ham and definitely did not wear a head scarf, and neither did most other women. In some sense I think some western countries could learn something from the Turkish about gender biases in science and how to fix them, as in Turkey around 40 percent of physicists are female! I was very impressed by the smart, enthusiastic, young people who were doing their Ph.D.s there, it was all in all an excellent experience.

But OK, lets not all move to Turkey at once, the country’s physicists have to do their work with a lot less resources than in the US or the European CERN member states. With a small science budget it is difficult to contribute significanctly to the collaboration, or send many people to CERN. No presence at CERN means that until the LHC is in a stable running state that means you will always hear things much later, and can not really contribute to the exciting times we are in at CERN now, particularly the commissioning of the detectors. I suppose that trips like this also remind me how fortunate I am to work with the people and the resources I have available, it really is a privilege.

(un)Fortunately for me, the aforementioned commissioning of the CMS pixel detector continued while I was helping our Turkish collaborators getting up to speed with the software. So this (Sunday) morning I spent some time catching up with my normal work and preparing the database that contains cabling information that will be needed for our run that will start Monday morning. This will be a very exciting time for the pixel community, as we will try to run the pixel detector (or at least a small component of it, for now) in combination with the rest of the CMS experiment. I hope the run goes well, I’m confident the CMS pixel cable information is in place. Now if I could only find my camera cable!

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