Monday, June 6, 2011

Internship Spotlight: Linda

Linda - CERN

I am doing my internship at CERN, all the way in Geneva, Switzerland. This is pretty much a dream come true, as I have always loved particle physics, and now I get to be right in the center of it. After a 13 hour flight out of San Francisco, I finally arrived in Geneva. It was a little scary at first, because I didn’t know anyone and I don’t speak any French. But now, one month in, I’ve mostly gotten used to it.

My job here is to work on materials for CERN’s Universe of Particles exhibition. This is a free exhibition explaining all about particle physics, technology used by CERN, and the benefits of basic research. I am making a “treasure hunt” to better engage teenagers in the exhibition. Along with this treasure hunt, I will make a guide for teachers, and some web content for students and teachers coming here on school trips. It’s been fun so far, though trying to test my questions when half the visitors don’t speak English has been a bit of an experience.

Being at CERN is a little intimidating. Almost everyone here has a Ph.D. in physics, or is currently working on one. Almost everyone here speaks at least two languages. I can walk down the hall and hear conversations in languages from all over the world (ok, mostly English and French). There’s a lattice of creepy maintenance tunnels underneath the whole site (some people I know are filming a zombie movie in the tunnels), old abandoned buildings and staircases, and random machinery lying in weird places.

Geneva is an amazing city. It’s got millennium-old buildings sitting on cobbled streets, and statues and fountains everywhere. There are beautiful gardens by the shore of Lake Geneva, and it’s the home of Red Cross and the European headquarters of the United Nations. Geneva is also right next to the border with France, and CERN actually sits right on top of the border, so I can literally walk into France. The border isn’t marked very well, so sometimes I don’t even notice that I have entered another country. And of course, everywhere you look is the Alps. I can look out my window on a clear day and see Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps.

This is a great internship, and an exciting time to be at CERN, as I’m sure the discovery of the Higgs is just around the corner.
Scenic Geneva, Switzerland

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