04 October 2010

My summer project at Imperial

After spending my last 3 months with this department over the summer, I wanted to share my experience with you via this blog. Either that or I was strongly encouraged by my supervisor Yoshi! I am a 3rd year undergraduate here at Imperial and I worked in HEP over last summer as part of a UROP (http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/urop) scheme.

Although not as extravagant as other blog entries on this site, with students travelling to Japan and Switzerland, my placement in the Blackett lab was just as enjoyable and rewarding. I was working with Yoshi and Ajit on the COMET experiment. In particular I was using computer simulations to optimise both a collimator and the fantastically named lagger-tagger, a name that Yoshi is still trying hard to get adopted by the particle physics community (hopefully not in vain).

I spent most of my time working with Ajit, who was very helpful, giving me lots of his time and expertise. His crash course in particle physics allowed me, who had not studied the subject yet, to understand enough of what was going on to do my project. I started by getting familiar with some of the tools of the high-energy physicist. First on the list was the hilariously steep learning curve required to use ROOT, and its 20 years worth of quirky workarounds, providing endless fun for the data analyst (I also wonder if the Windows version of ROOT is called Administrator). Second was G4beamline, a brilliant piece of software, with documentation so in depth and confusing that presumably only the person who wrote it can use all of its myriad features with any degree of confidence. Joking aside these are impressive programs, testament to group collaboration over years, and they allowed me to complete my project without much hassle at all.

The next part of my work was at the Daresbury Laboratory, working as part of the team building the detectors for T2K. This was useful as I could see another stage of an experiment, its actual construction, rather than its design. When I received the email telling me that the detector I had worked on had been shipped out to Japan it gave me the feeling that I had provided something real to an huge multinational experiment.

Another enjoyable part of my work over the summer was the opportunity to be a part of a research group, thankfully the High Energy physics group was welcoming and I got on well with all that I met, meeting for lunches and the occasional night out. The experience has convinced me to do a similar project next summer and to apply for a PhD place after my degree.

All in all I had a great time doing my UROP placement here, it was hard work, but very rewarding. Looking around this blog, I have only one regret, that I didn’t take more photos of myself smiling, standing in front of physics equipment.

Thanks to Yoshi and Ajit for their time.


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