The name CERN is derived from the acronym for the French “Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire”, or European Council for Nuclear Research, a provisional body founded in 1952 with the mandate of establishing a world-class fundamental physics research organization in Europe. With monumental achievements and apparatus, the greatest physicists and engineers in the world, CERN is very likely to be the cradle in which a new chapter of physics is about to be conceived. And right there at the heart of it all is the Large Hadron Collider. As we know, we have IITM students doing their part in this revolutionizing the world endeavor. We have Mayur Joshi (ME DD 21) who did his internship here to tell us about it.
What kind of work did you do at CERN?
My work was in the LHC itself. The LHC has 4 particle detectors, ATLAS, ALICE, CMS and the LHCb. I was working in the cooling system of the CMS. The current cooling system is a CO2 based one; in the light of the fact that the LHC is to be shut down and started soon, we aim to build a novel cooling system which should be more efficient and eco-friendly as well.
How did you get this internship? Enlighten us about the application process.
On the face of it, there are primarily two ways of getting this internship. First, CERN has its own Summer programs for college students. The application for this closes by January every year. This way is very difficult as the application questions are very difficult. Another way is only for those students who study in institutes which are affiliated to CMS, like our own. In IITM the professor in charge is Dr. Prafulla Behera, who makes his own application. Four students are selected. Apart from the application, other criterions like CGPA, summer projects and other skills are considered as well. The truth is there is no hard and fast condition like a requirement for a great CGPA or such; students are assessed in very thorough manner.
Another rather unusual way is there, you could land an internship if you are in contact with people at CERN, such as one of their senior physicists from India, the celebrated Dr. Archana Sharma and give reasons for them to believe you are worthy.
Should students have done some prior work at, say maybe IITM to know if this internship is for them?
No such internships are really necessary. All the theoretical knowledge I required was covered during my second year in my mechanical engineering courses. In fact, some of the of the technical skills necessary like MATLAB, Autocad, Solidworks were also taught. And with most students being involved in CFI and other technical projects they probably have a good background in a plethora of software. Besides some of the skills can be learned during the internship itself. I personally didn’t have a lot of knowledge in the programming language used there but, I learned it with help of the people at CERN. Having said that, it is always better to have had some internship experience, because these are learning experiences which never goes amiss.
What was the Demographic of the internship like?
There were students from many countries. The student body representation is based on that countries contribution to CERN. So, we had students from most countries in varying numbers, people from Pakistan to Poland. It created a very interesting atmosphere, with the confluence of so many amazing minds from so many different cultures.
So how was Switzerland? What the entire experience like?
Switzerland is one of the most picturesque locations in the world and summer is a great time be there. The experience of working at CERN was great of course, but I learned from just staying alone as well. I worked on my internship from 8:30 to 6:30, after that I was on my own. Now, Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world. This meant eating at the canteen was not feasible. CERN did provide the travel money and while we got the money for accommodation from a crowd-funding, the food and other daily needs were on us. This meant that 6:30 onwards we had to go shopping for groceries so we could cook our own dinners. Then in the morning, we had to cook again. This responsibility, burden of complete independence was new to us. So, in some sense, the living situation was as educational as the internship itself.
Author: Shrigyan Brahmachari (BT-ME’21)