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Regina Caputo | USLHC | USA

View Blog | Read Bio

The Summer Students are here!

Last week officially started the Summer Student Program here at CERN.  Summer at CERN is much more enjoyable than the winter. The sun is up until past 9 p.m., people are out and about, riding bikes, walking in parks. And the cafeteria fills up with interns, as do the front lawns. Everywhere young people are playing soccer and volleyball and starting BBQs. The undergrad program lasts anywhere from 2-3 months and is a sure sign that summer is here. Seeing all those bright young happy faces takes me back to the day when I was an undergrad many many years ago (ok, maybe more like 4 years ago :-))… although I never went to CERN, I participated in the SULI (Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships) program hosted by the DOE and went to Fermilab.

An internship at Fermilab isn’t about making coffee and filing paperwork. It gave me the opportunity to work at a national lab and see what it was like to be a high energy physicist. The internships involve participating in a series of lectures about different physics topics and working on a project that you and your advisor discuss. I worked on the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search and actually was able to continue the project past the summer and use the work for my senior research project. Twice I went to Minnesota to work in the Soudan Mine (where the experiment is located) and the following October, went to a collaboration meeting. It was truly a great experience and I’m convinced that I would have never gone into high energy physics had I not had that summer internship.

Fermilab interns Summer 2005

Fermilab Summer Interns 2005

But now I’m on the other end of the program. Instead of being the undergrad who is here for the summer, I’m a grad student who gets to work with them. Although I’m not working directly with any summer students this year, last year I while at Stony Brook I worked closely with a REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) student. There’s something invigorating and refreshing about working with undergrads. They’re excited to learn about what you are working on, and probably haven’t had as many frustrations about their thesis and days full of meetings and other responsibilities. Working with them reminds you why you went into physics in the first place. It gets you thinking about the big picture and the science that initially interested you instead of the day to day stuff like fixing your computer program and setting up a new software release.

On that note, it’s time for me to get back to my meetings and BBQs.

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