I have a new flatmate now who has a keen interest in science. The other day when I came home he asked (in French) “What did you do today?”. It’s a simple question. Although it doesn’t always have a short answer as I also knew that he also wanted to understand, what do I do on a day-to-day basis as a scientist? This question is the inspiration of today’s post, which is a diary of my day.
Last night I was invited to the wine and cheese social event at a workshop taking place at my lab, which was a great chance to see a friend and former Manchester colleague who was attending the workshop, and also to meet new people in ATLAS who were outside of my analysis group (ATLAS is ~4000 people, so it’s not unusual that I haven’t met them all!). The conversation developed into some very interesting debates and I ended up staying later than I had planned. Hence this morning’s early start was a difficult one. I have an hour’s commute to get into work so on the way I grabbed a pain au chocolate at the train station (as I didn’t have time to eat breakfast at home) and spent the time on the train proof-reading the thesis of a PhD student I work with.
The first meeting of the day started at 8.30am. This was exceptional and was arranged to fit with the schedule of someone in Australia. For them the meeting was at 6.30pm, so it was just about reasonable for both sides. I am one of two contact people for a part of our analysis, which means I keep up-to-date with what everyone is doing and report back to the conveners of our analysis to make sure everything is on track. This is my first leadership position in ATLAS analysis and I learn a lot about how to do the job well every day. It’s useful to have these meetings to get advice and support from my superiors.
The second meeting, starting at 9am, continued on the same topic, but involved everyone from the analysis. We had presentations from studies that had taken place over the last week and discussed the results. It’s a long meeting, as there are many steps of the analysis to go over in detail. Continue reading An average day→
This post is a quick one as I’m currently on holiday in New York. Today we went to visit the Rockefeller Centre and nearby is a statue that looks very familiar to me. The bronze statue is of a male figure, the Titan Atlas, holding up the sky. The reason it is so familiar to me is because my collaboration at CERN is called ATLAS and our logo is based on this statue (although it’s recently gone through re-design to make the figure more androgynous). Below you can see the previous version of our logo, and the newer design that we use now.
Since I was there, I couldn’t resist have a photo taken with the statue. I like to add as many photos and images as possible* into my presentations and so I’m sure this will be useful. Here’s the photo!
In the nearby LEGO shop, there is a LEGO version of this statue. We already have LEGO version of our detector, both in a large version (shown below with Prof. Higgs), and in smaller versions. If you would like to see the small version as part of a LHC LEGO set, you should head over to the LEGO IDEAS page where you can vote for it!
Professor Higgs signing the ATLAS LEGO rebuilt at the University of Manchester.
I should head off now, there’s a lot more sight-seeing to do!
(*Much to the strain of the upload server when it comes to adding my presentation to the online agenda.)
Last Wednesday, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN started colliding protons with stable beams at the highest energy we’ve ever achieved! I had a very early start (alarm went off at 5.30am) to be in the ATLAS Control Room and tell everyone all about it on social media through the ATLAS Twitter accounts. There was a team of us from ATLAS Outreach working that day.
CERN had a live webcast to explain what was happening and at one point, when checking it, I realised I was live in the background of an interview with ATLAS Spokesperson, Dave Charlton. So, I acted natural and was thankful that, even though I was supposed to be doing the social media, I wasn’t on Facebook.
A little before 9am, the beams that had been increasing in energy inside the LHC were dumped and they had to start again. No problem, as it’s essentially a new machine, this was not unexpected. Everyone went to get coffee and breakfast (or second breakfasts) and I updated Twitter:
Beams were lost during ramping, which is not an unexpected occurrence, but we have to wait about an hour for the magnets to be reset. #13TeV
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.
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.
In physics, as in running, how you manage your rest time is just as important as how you spend your time working (or training).
I am currently preparing for a long-distance race in April, so even though I have a to-do list that extends onto multiple pages, this gives me the motivation to take time away from my computer and get outside. Yesterday I went for a run along the La Seine, up to the famous Notre Dame cathedral and down to Luxembourg gardens. It was a beautiful sunny day, but the temperature was around freezing. Below are a few photographs I stopped to take along the way.
How do you spend your time off? Let me know in the comments below!
Last Saturday was the Séminaire Poincaré at l’Institut Henri Poincaré in Paris. There was a whole day of talks on ‘Le Boson H’ which translates to ‘the H[iggs] boson’, although for reasons that may soon become apparent, it was only referred to as the H boson in the talks. Unfortunately because of a flight that evening, I could only make the morning session, but the timing wasn’t too bad as the first talk was the one that I really wanted to see. That morning was one where I truly appreciated living in Paris. I woke up at a reasonable time for a Saturday morning and took a short bus to the institute, which is close to the Pantheon and just south of the Notre Dame cathedral.
The lecture theatre was smaller than I expected, but completely packed when I arrived and it was difficult to find a seat. Not surprising since the first talk was given by Professor François Englert, the Belgian theoretical physicist who shared the Nobel prize for physics in 2013 for: “… the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider”.
The talk was in French, but with the use of the slides and a knowledge of the subject I was able to follow along happily. When the seminar stopped for lunch, I went down to the front to talk to Prof. Englert. I asked if he would sign my copy of the seminar papers, which he was more than happy to do.
I explained to Prof. Englert that I was a particle physicist working on the ATLAS experiment at CERN. He asked if we’d met before and I told him that although we’d not met directly, we had been present in the same room, when the announcement of the new boson discovered at CERN was made in 2012. He apologised to me for not recognising me, to which I replied that it was a busy and exciting day, plus I was all the way at the back of an extremely packed auditorium, while he had been reserved a space at the front. It was a very nice chat and an honour to meet him. Afterwards I asked if we could have a photograph together.
Edit: If you look closely at the photo you might be able to see that Prof. Englert was wearing a particle physics tie and, the ultimate physics fashion accessory, a Nobel prize gold pin.
While I was curating the @RealScientists account and generally being a tourist at work around CERN, I snapped a photo of dishwasher that was being used to clean a readout board I needed for my test beam experiment. I put the photo up on Twitter and it got a little bit of attention. The photo was spotted by CERN, and yesterday Rosaria Marraffino wrote a CERN bulletin article about the dishwasher. It seems to be a very popular image as only a day later it’s already amassed over a thousand retweets on Twitter! Here’s the tweet (below) and a link to the article.