Travel Report: Konstantin Lehmann, Physics

January 11, 2019

Konstantin Lehmann, a PhD student in  Physics, received a Graduate International Research Travel Award (GIRTA) to further his research in Switzerland. His report: 

I have been working on my PhD project for two years studying the Higgs boson, one of the fundamental particles known to scientists. My group is very involved with the ATLAS detector at the research facility CERN recording collisions of accelerated protons. Because of the size and complexity of the experiment, the ATLAS collaboration consists of about 3,000 physicists. There are many tasks that need to be done for the benefit of the collaboration ranging from upgrading the experiment to managing computing resources and maintaining analysis code.

One of these tasks is detector operation. When the proton accelerator is running, the experiment needs to be monitored and operated 24 hours a day for various reasons. Most importantly, the shifters need to ensure that detector operation does not put anyone in harm’s way and that the detector remains undamaged despite the close proximity to high-energetic proton beams. Secondly, shifters check that all subdetectors perform well and the recorded data has high quality.

In summer of 2018, I received the SFU’s Graduate International Research and Travel Award, which allowed me to travel to CERN and do 21 detector shifts.

For a PhD student like myself, time spent in the detector control room is extremely valuable. Not only was I able to contribute to the joint efforts of my collaboration, but I also saw the detector in every-day operation. I learnt about general experimental conditions and about the intricacies of the Inner Detector, for which I was responsible. I learnt how to mitigate common errors in data-taking and how to identify problems in the recorded data. And I experienced how important efficient communication is when solving problems in a group.

Initially, I wanted to do detector shifts to support my collaboration and to learn about the detector. But in the months after my research trip, I realized that this knowledge also helps with my PhD project, for which I analyze the recorded ATLAS data. In a few occasions, I have already been able to use the experience that I gained during detector operation.

I am grateful to SFU for providing the Graduate International Research and Travel Award, which supports students each year with their research. I hope that many students will receive the same support in future years.

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