Alma Student Interns at World's Largest Supercollider
When the first protons were fired at almost the speed of light
around a 27-kilometer underground tunnel in a ground-breaking
particle-smashing experiment, Alma College physics student Adam
Sypniewski could take pride in knowing he had a hand in its ultimate
Sypniewski, Petoskey senior, was one of 15 U.S. students to complete a summer internship at CERN, the French acronym for the largest supercollider, or “atom smasher,” in the world.
The lab in Geneva on the border of France and Switzerland is the result of efforts by the European Organization for Nuclear Research to investigate the origins of the universe.
Adam Sypniewski won the President's Cup in spring 2008 for academic achievement.
The first beams of protons were launched Sept. 10 to test the
controlling strength of the world’s largest superconducting magnets.
Scientists reportedly were pleased with the initial results.
“The collider takes protons, accelerates them close to the speed of light in two counter rotating beams, and then smashes them together,” says Sypniewski. “The energy from the collision is converted to mass and creates particles, which scientists believe are the fundamental building blocks of nature.”
Scientists from around the world will study the data generated from the experiments. CERN created the “LHC Grid,” a global network of 60,000 computers that will analyze what happens when the protons are hurled at each other inside the Large Hadron Collider.
For his internship, Sypniewski worked on a monitoring tool to make sure the accelerator’s detectors were functioning properly. The detectors collect and distribute data to the LHC Grid.
“The data is distributed across the world in this LHC Grid environment,” he says. “I was part of a project team that studied the difference between matter and anti-matter. We worked on the smallest of four detectors, which puts out a million gigabytes a year, or 80 megabytes a second.”
Sypniewski worked in Geneva from June through August. His internship was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation coordinated by the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
“I had my own office with a computer to do my work,” he says. “I was part of the physics department. An advisor was assigned to each of us. I really appreciated my advisor; he was easy to work with, flexible, and didn’t micromanage.”
After graduating from Alma, Sypniewski plans to pursue his Ph.D. in physics and hopefully return to CERN.
“The internship was more than what I could have dreamed of; it was literally my dream job,” he says. “This is the heart of physics in the world today. To work at CERN was unbelievable.”
Posted: Tue, September 23rd, 2008 at 8:55AM