Snow-covered beauties at CERN
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CMS Induction Days at CERN

The CMS behemoth

Research life is very challenging. It is very human for a young researcher to lose focus of his work. When I moved to Brussels for my doctoral degree, away from dear friends and family, I faced a somewhat similar situation. I believe myself as a very social person and like doing things that will impact the cost of daily bread and butter. My field of research, Experimental High Energy Physics (EHEP), is contrary to the above philosophy where we search for answers among particles that make up the atoms. While I understood the importance of my work and loved doing it, I needed a fresh perspective.

The CMS Induction days were very fortuitous. From the visit to the CMS behemoth, the dinner conversations, to the sessions and the snowy evenings, I had a very exciting time at CERN. Since I can’t possibly enumerate all the good things, I will try to mention the remarkable ones.

The visit to P5 site of CERN where CMS is housed had the most profound effect. We had gone to see the experiment during its early phase of the two-year vacation that it was about to take. We started the journey to the underground cavern with a wonderful analogy from our guide, “The LHC is trying to find the internal mechanism of a car by colliding two high-speed cars and taking pictures of the 4 cars, 6 trucks, and 10 bullock carts that come out of it. CMS is one of the cameras.” We were shown the meticulously planned daily work schedule to facilitate the international teams who came from all corners of the world to install upgrades. It did a lot for me to re-discover the importance of my work. A single work not done in time could create a chain reaction resulting in the delay of important experimental upgrades to the detector. Before long, we descended 100 meters down to the cavern. The excitement of the whole evening was only exceeded by the amazement of finally seeing the detector. It was a fairy tale come true. There was the satisfaction of being able to identify each and every component of the detector.  Just seeing the gigantic experiment in its modular structure gave an earthly anchor for my research. We spent a long time taking selfies and discussing the upgrades and their implications. We also joked about the ten-year-old camera which is still technologically way more sophisticated than any camera of today, the silicon detector. We spent a good happy hour before we started our return. To cap off the exotic visit, was the view of the snow-capped peaks of the majestic Mont Blanc shining in sunlight beaming through a gap in the clouds. It was an amazing feeling of satisfaction aesthetically and psychologically.

Making good friends was another big part of the days. Over drinks, after dinner, our topics of discussion glided from our countries and their culture to friends, funny incidents, our doctoral positions and the effort that went into it, insecurities of research life, independence of researchers and so on. For the uninitiated, the diversity of research that actually goes into EHEP can be quite baffling. To give a figurative idea, we were about 20 people and each of us barely knew the fundamental of the others work. One good friend that I made was Josry from DESY Hamburg, with whom I built my first ever snowman with leafy eyes and mouth and a stick for the nose.

Geneva sees picturesque winters. Situated on a plateau, you find towering mountain ranges all around CERN. It had been snowing for days. The landscape had a cottony feeling to it. It was a scene right out of Frozen for me. Grey pine trees with white branches behind the incessantly falling flakes of snow. Oh! I couldn’t have dreamt for anything more scintillating. I believe I will need one more such motivation before I am done with my Ph.D.

Abanti Ranadhir Sahasransu, from Odisha, India completed his MS in Physics at IISER in Kolkata, India and is now studying for his PhD in the Be-H programme at Brussels, Belgium. He is working on the CMS experiment, for which he will develop new algorithms that can identify displaced new particles.

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