The last ten days or so I’ve spent at CERN testing new designs of pixel detectors for the ATLAS experiment. Since it was the IOP’s #iamaphysicist event on the same day we were setting up, I tweeted out the following picture.
To measure our pixel detectors, we need a beam of particles from a particle accelerator. Fortunately at CERN, we have many to chose from! Just see the diagram of all of the accelerators required to get the protons to the LHC. Our experiment uses the SPS, or Super Proton Synchrotron, the last accelerator in the chain of accelerators which feed the LHC with protons. The protons enter the SPS at 25 GeV and are accelerated up to 450 GeV (note the LHC accelerates to 7500 GeV, or 7.5 TeV, per beam). We then use a target to change the type of particle from a proton to a pion.
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
A little over a week ago, on Thursday 22nd May, the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) launched the Collider exhibit, a recreation of the experience of visiting CERN. I would have loved to have been there to help out, but unfortunately I had meetings at CERN the same week and couldn’t go in person. So I did the next best thing and suggested that we organise an ATLAS Virtual Visit to connect the Collider exhibit to CERN. A virtual visit is a live online connection to the ATLAS control room and is often used by schools to allow students to talk to scientists about the research taking place on the ATLAS experiment at CERN. As an aside, if you are a school teacher, you can organise a virtual visit for your class for free! Go to the following link to find out more: http://atlas-live-virtual-visit.web.cern.ch/atlas-live-virtual-visit/
Being at CERN also allowed me to show an example of just how faithful the exhibit is at recreating the corridors at CERN. In the following photo, Marieke (Manchester Science Festival Director at MOSI) and Andy (University of Manchester) pose in front of the recreation of a CERN office door:
I did get a few strange looks from the guy inside the office when I told him his door was part of an exhibit and I needed to shut it to take a photo!
In the ATLAS control room later that evening, we had physicists Steve Goldfarb, Hugo Day and myself. Hugo’s not technically an ATLAS physicist, but we let him off because he works on accelerators like the LHC, helping to provide us with lots of collision data! We chatted with visitors to the Collider launch as they walked past and answered their questions. I really enjoyed talking to everyone! Jon Butterworth, who was at the event to give a talk about his new popular physics book, Smashing Physics (available at all good book stores, I’m sure 😉 ) asked me where we were at the event. But honestly, I have no idea – all I could see of the room was red ceiling beams, which doesn’t narrow it down! Also, with the camera above us in the control room, and the computer screen below visitors in the exhibit, I did feel a little like they’d shrunk us and put us in the museum! You can see what I mean in the screenshot from the video feeds below.
I followed the rest of the launch on Twitter, and from what I could see it was a really successful evening! There were many Manchester physicists there to show what a strong contribution to the research at CERN Manchester (and indeed the UK) has. I was very proud when I saw the following tweet from a panel discussion with my PhD thesis examiner, masters supervisor and PhD supervisor respectively.
If you’re near Manchester and haven’t yet been to the Collider exhibit I thoroughly recommend it! This Friday, 6th June, there’s a late night opening:
Join us for a night at the museum that will entertain, inform and inspire. Mingle with scientists who work on experiments at the Large Hadron Collider, get creative with drop-in screen printing workshops or make like an accelerated proton at our Large Hadron Collider roller disco*.
We’ll have another ATLAS Virtual Visit too, but this time with different physicists in the Control Room as I’ll be at the exhibit in person! Hopefully see you there!
If you’ve been to the Collider exhibit, in Manchester or when it was in London, I’d love to know what you thought, you can leave me a comment below!
The ATLAS Blog is currently focusing on the work that takes place when the LHC is not colliding protons for the experiments. The series is called “Notes from Underground”. This week’s post is from me and focuses on the work of developing new pixel detectors for upgrading ATLAS, specifically the IBL. You can read it here:
On the 8th of May, I had some fantastic news in my inbox: the IBL, or Insertable B-Layer, had been taken 100m underground and installed into the ATLAS experiment at CERN! Unless you’re an ATLAS physicist yourself, you probably don’t know what I’m talking about when I mention the IBL. In short, it’s an extra layer of pixel detectors which has gone into the very centre of the ATLAS detector ready for data taking when we switch back on next year. This extra layer is there to cope with the upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) accelerator to a higher energy by being faster, more accurate (the pixels are smaller) and better able to withstand the more intense radiation background. Working on prototypes of pixel detectors for the IBL, specifically on a new technology called 3D silicon pixel sensors, was the focus of my PhD with the University of Manchester and it’s brilliant that it has been successfully installed!
Taking pictures of particles and other stories from a high energy physicist