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Posts Tagged ‘going’

Coming and Going

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

Hi, all!

It’s 6am, and I am just entering the night shift doldrums. (Again.) I won’t lie: Lady Gaga is the only thing keeping me awake right now. Ra ra, ah ah ah. Roma, roma ma.

I had thought to write about the LHC’s big switch from proton-proton to heavy ion collisions, but another blogger beat me to it. Kudos, Ken. I’m tempted to write about how I’m spending my weekend — 3D pixel sensors, and the R&D thereof — but at this point in my shift, I’m trying very hard not to think about it. So… here’s a human interest (fluff) piece instead. 🙂

I moved to CERN 1 year ago, and I mean to stay for another one, at least. (I celebrated my anniversary by working until 9pm. Very fitting.) By CERN standards, I believe this makes me a long-term resident, since the community here has such a high turnover rate: physicists are constantly coming and going! Short stays for meetings, conferences, shifts, testbeams, “the experience,” cleverly-disguised European vacations, etc. are common and easily worked into a busy schedule. Longer-term stays, on the other hand, require a certain degree of independence from one’s institution or employment at CERN itself, but of course these eventually come to an end. All good things do.

Let’s take my university, Stony Brook, as an example. This 3D pixel testbeam (still going…) brought out a pair of grad students for two weeks, but they’ve already left. Last week an e/gamma workshop near Marseilles, France drew an SBU friend (and former US LHC blogger!) to CERN, but she’s only here for a few days — zut! This fall, four professors have been or will soon be here, but only briefly. And my advisor often shows up unexpectedly; not long ago we actually crossed paths at the Geneva airport going in opposite directions. Now multiply this by the (five?) hundreds of institutions doing work here. It gets a little intense.

To accommodate the transient physicist population, CERN operates three hostels on-site. When I first moved here, I stayed in one for a couple weeks; I could see my office from my bedroom. Yikes. For medium-term visitors, there’s the St. Genis “Aparthotel,” an unfortunate hybrid located kitty-corner from the only bar in town. This is, I think, a necessary convenience. And for longer-term CERNois like me, there are apartments all around, as far as the eye can see. Although the housing market can be quite competitive in the vicinity of Geneva, we have our own CERN Market that provides international movers a much-needed leg up. It’s a great source of apartments-for-rent, used cars, ski equipment, and of course, cheap Swedish-made furniture. (I love you, Ikea, but please don’t make me lecture on the sustainability of disposable furniture.)

Now, finally, I arrive at the point of my post: This constant flow of people from all around the world results in a diverse mix of cultures and experience that enriches and informs our scientific research. There’s a CERN Market for ideas, too. I think this goes to the heart of having a global laboratory: All together, it’s much more than the sum of its parts.

Well, my shift is over, and I’m overdue for some much-needed sleep — followed by the weekend! Gaga give me strength.

— Burton

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