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Nicole Ackerman | SLAC | USA

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Party in the salt mine!

Once again, I am blogging from a salt mine in New Mexico. This will be my last trip to WIPP for a while since I will be teaching next quarter and then will have a bit of early summer travel. Also – we are almost “done”. Well, done with the part where we need hands here doing things. Our detector is in the cryostat and the electronics are installed and relatively soon the lead wall will be built in front. So by time I can fit a trip into my schedule, there might not be anything for me to do here.

In the past I’ve been here with one other physicist and our two local techs- this time our area feels crowded! Next week is “40 hour training”, which is the first step to someone becoming a miner. Any collaborator who wants to come underground and work needs to have completed 40 hour training, which really is an entire week. We currently have about 5 people who are here to take that, plus myself, our tech from SLAC, our 2 local techs, and a post-doc who lives here. Next week most people will be above ground in training, but now many of them are underground with us becoming familiar with our area (but not allowed to do work).

The disadvantages of having so many people is that our underground office has 2 computers, 6 chairs, and really enough space for only about 4 people comfortably. This is only an issue around lunchtime. Additionally, the entrance to the clean room has enough space for about 4 persons’ gear. It is a great advantage for dinner though – more people can take turns cooking and there is more motivation to cook something decent (rather than nachos every night) if it is for 4 people rather than only 1 or 2. Additionally, it means more options on the weekend – one car can go hiking, another up to Artesia. When there are few enough people for us to not need to rent a car, we only have one local vehicle to get around with and few people are allowed to drive it.

The final issue is that our two rental houses have 6 beds and I didn’t “sign up” for a bed early enough. I hate to spend our money on a hotel, so I’ll either be sleeping on the couch or using an air mattress. So if I end up on the floor in someone else’s room it might get to be a bit of a slumber party!

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