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Ken Bloom | USLHC | USA

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Field trip

Today I and two colleagues took a rather exciting trip to visit the Paul Scherrer Institut, outside of Zurich.  We’re engaged in some research on future pixel detectors there, so we have one postdoc stationed at PSI, and two students who are resident there for the summer.  Since I was at going to be at CERN for a couple of weeks, I wanted to visit them and see what was going on there.

PSI is about three and a half hours away from Geneva by train, plus a short bus ride at the end.  Swiss trains are, by my standards, very civilized!  The first leg of the trip, from Geneva to Lausanne, goes along Lake Geneva, and the scenery is very pretty, as you can look across the lake and see the mountains on the other side.  We went up last night, after a day of work at CERN, and had dinner on the train, which was on the expensive side but also quite pleasant.

PSI sits on both the east and west bank of the Aare River, with a bridge connecting the two sides.  It’s essentially the Swiss general-purpose national laboratory.  High-energy physics is only a small part of what they do.  They also have a synchrotron light source with very stable beams, a proton source and a neutron beam.  Our host for the day was Roland Horisberger, who is the leader of the CMS group there.  PSI built the barrel pixel detector for CMS.  With tens of millions of readout channels within a radius of 11 centimeters, it’s really a work of art.  The truly amazing thing is that the entire barrel was built just by the group at PSI, which is only eight physicists.  Suffice it to say that they are all very good at what they do, and what they do covers the gamut of detector design and construction — mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, chip design, and so forth.  Now that they have built and installed the detector that will operate in CMS starting this fall, they are hard at work on improving their designs so they can start to build a replacement detector, which will be necessary because the large particle fluxes through the detector will ultimately damage it.

Our students are learning a tremedous amount from working with such a strong and knowledgeable team.  I’ll have to visit again soon!

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