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Parlez-vous français ?

I first started trying to learn French when I planned to moved to Geneva to work at CERN for my PhD. I took a few lessons and downloaded a podcast, but when I actually arrived, and was surrounded by Brits, or English speaking colleagues, I quickly found that other tasks took higher priority and I didn’t get any further than ordering food at a restaurant.

La tour D'Eiffel However, when I accepted a post-doc in Paris, I knew things would be different. Officially the work was in English since I would still be working with the same international researchers at CERN that I was before. But this time I was moving out on my own, so I wasn’t going to have a large British group of friends, and I had been warned that many of the engineers and support staff that I would be working with either didn’t speak English, or strongly preferred speaking French. Not to mention all of the daily life tasks I would have to face, such as finding an apartment. This was OK. In fact, it was one of the reasons looked outside of the UK for my first post-doc; I was tired of being the only monolingual in a crowd of bi-, tri- and even poly-linguals! I had to learn at least one language and moving somewhere I was going to be forced to speak it was the only way it was going to happen.

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Conference Travel

One of the perks of being a particle physicist, is the travel. Actually, I should rephrase that: one of the perks of being a particle physicist with a (limited) travel budget is that you get to travel. But you have to earn it.

As I write this I am sat in the departure lounge of Paris’ Charles De Gaulle airport waiting for a flight to Toronto. I’m headed to the PIXEL2014 conference at Niagara Falls to present the results from my lab. I’ve barely slept in the last week as I try to condense all of our research into a 25 minute PDF. I’ve amused myself by finding tenuous reasons to include photos of the #67P comet that the ESA ROSETTA mission is studying (because it’s cool right now), and also the cover art of the 1989 SimCity computer game (because it’s always been cool), not to mention almost compulsory photos of the beautiful conference location, the falls themselves.

The horseshoe waterfall take just after sunrise.
The horseshoe waterfall taken just after sunrise.

This is one of the major conferences this year for researchers working on pixel detectors (it’s aptly named, unlike the BEACH conference that was in Birmingham, UK this year) and I’m really looking forward to the talks and the discussions. Also, as a young researcher, it’s important for me to begin to mix with other researchers in my area; to learn from them, share my experiences and just to be known!

Oh, they’ve just called my gate! Got to run…

Note: Edited to include said beautiful photos of the conference location.