CERN Trip Report

CERN Trip SLGGS and SLBS November 19th to 22nd

At 5.30am on Sunday morning, seven SLGGS students and one staff member joined staff and 32 students of SLBS to embark on what was to be an exciting and awe-inspiring visit to CERN. Despite the long tiring coach journey, students maintained their good humour throughout and we arrived in our rooms by 9.00pm on Sunday night.

We reached CERN on a crisp, bright Monday morning and were taken to CERN Reception and an introductory talk by a very experienced researcher, who outlined a wealth of information regarding:

  • the history and ethos of the organisation (rebuilding European Science post war with member states sharing costs, responsibilities and benefits);
  • the geography of the site (geologically stable, flat, bordered on two sides by the Alps and the Jura mountains and located in or close to several European nations);
  • a description of the main particle accelerators (the Synchrocyclotron; LINAC2 and the Large Hadron Collider to name but three)
  • some of the amazing work completed and in progress (discovery of the Higgs Boson);
  • a smattering about the numerous Nobel Prize winners and
  • a little about the number of member states (22) and international users of CERN (>11 000).

We also learned about the speed to which protons can be accelerated (an unbelievable 99.9999991% of the speed of light!) and some information about the 4 detectors positioned at intervals around the 27km long collider.

Our minds were reeling even more when we were given a tour of the testing facility for the components of the Large Hadron Collider, learning, for instance that the niobium-titanium alloy used for the superconducting magnets generates a magnetic field thousands of times greater than that of copper. The feats of engineering required to build the LHC were astounding and our students impressed staff tremendously by asking pertinent and challenging questions. We discovered that liquid nitrogen (at a temperature of approximately -2000C) is a little too warm for the temperatures required, so the LHC is cooled by liquid Helium, -271.30C, making it the coldest place on the planet.

In the afternoon we saw some more exhibits then spent some time in the city of Geneva, seeing the amazing views, architecture, cathedral, shops, Remembrance Wall and fountain.

On Tuesday, we returned to CERN, to visit the Medipix group, led by Dr Michael Campbell and were thoroughly engaged by his work on the development of semiconductor technology for the LHC and its applications in medical imaging. Two of his group, including an amazing young woman who was doing her PhD in electrical engineering, further impressed us with explanations of developing the analogue and digital components of new microchips. The students had a real feel for the international flavour and cutting edge science performed here. Once again our students asked insightful questions, so many that our timing over-ran!

We then went on to the world class CLOUD experiment, researching natural and man-made aerosol particles as condensation nuclei in cloud formation with a view to better understanding cloud formation as well as historical, current and future climate models.

Our last afternoon and evening was spent in Chamonix, visiting the beautiful Mer de Glace glacier and having dinner.

I would like to thank everyone involved in the trip, including the excellent coach drivers, Malcolm and Trevor; Mrs Challis; Mrs Thurgood; Mr Champion and the rest of the staff from each site who contributed, as well as the students of both schools, who did us proud.

Dr Vaughan

Some of the comments and photographs from SLGGS students are below

‘The trip to Cern was one of the best experiences of my life and one I will never forget. It was so much fun and I just wish we could have stayed longer!’ 

Helen Browning

‘Our trip to CERN allowed us to see the applications of physics we had previously learnt in a classroom. Allowing us to see a real working experiment meant we could observe the process behind how the experiments work and what the data can be used for. Although the trip was mainly based around visiting CERN we also went to the top of a mountain in Chamonix and roamed the streets of Geneva. Overall the trip was a great opportunity to use new physics equipment, make new friends and experience different cultures.’

Lucy Ayling

‘It was such an eye opening experience to see the concepts learnt in the classroom applied in real life on such a large scale with professionals from across the globe working together in to achieve a common goal, it really inspired me to pursue a career in physics.’

Joshua Duprey

Photographs by Charlie Harding / Dr Vaughan

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