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Ken Bloom | USLHC | USA

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Meeting our PIREs

Your humble correspondent hasn’t had a chance to write much lately, as I have been dealing with an unfortunate confluence of events that require my attention. I’ll try to catch up on some of these events over the next few weeks/posts.

In a previous post, I mentioned our engagement in research on future silicon pixel detectors. This is funded by a rather interesting National Science Foundation grant that I’m on from their Partnerships in International Research and Education program. Like the title says, the purpose of the program is to create partnerships between U.S. and non-U.S. institutions to create research and education opportunities that have a significant international component. This program is very competitive, and we were lucky to be awarded a PIRE grant in 2007.

We are part of a consortium of five U.S. schools — UNL, University of Kansas, Kansas State University, University of Illinois-Chicago and University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez — that is working with the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland and ETH, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. We send graduate and undergraduate students on an all-expense paid trip to do research work at PSI for the summer, and to take classes at ETH during the school year. The scientific goals of the project are to do the R&D work for the next CMS pixel detector, and to learn as much as we can from the talented PSI group. The broader educational goals are to give the students the opportunity to engage in a great learning experience abroad.

The PIRE group holds an annual workshop, and this year it was our turn to host it at UNL. We “only” had about 25 people coming to visit us for the two days, but my colleague Aaron and I still had a lot to do to take care of all the logistics and put together the agenda and so forth. After all that, it went pretty well. There is a lot of activity on the project, but it’s hard to get a view of how it all fits together unless you have some meetings like this. When you sum up all the little summer projects that students have done, it starts to look pretty impressive. There have been a number of published papers and conference presentations on the work. Perhaps the nicest part was hearing about the students’ experience of living, working and studying abroad. Everyone said that it was a real eye-opener; having the chance to be immersed in a foreign culture teaches you a lot about your own. We’ve only had a few students take classes at ETH so far, but they have been wildly enthusiastic about their experience — they found the classes challenging but satisfying, and got a lot of great support from ETH staff. After hearing all that, I definitely want to track down more students who can benefit from joining this project.

But one of the best things about the workshop is that the collaborators from the other schools are a nice group of people, and we really enjoyed getting to sit down face to face and talk about our work and the rest of life. I’m already looking forward to our next get-together…even if it is going to be in Manhattan, KS!

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