Sophie Owen – Internship Summary
I have just completed my week placement at the Cockcroft Institute at Daresbuy Labs and I can honestly say it has been an invaluable experience for me.
As a college student in my final year there is a lot of talk about what my plans and goals are for the future and if I’m honest I was at a loss. There are so many different options and routes out there and I was finding it hard to really narrow down what it is I wanted to do. Physics has always been my favourite subject so I knew I wanted to study it at University, but had no real idea of where my degree could take me.
I attended an open event at the University of Liverpool, hoping to get a clearer idea of what a degree in physics involves and the career prospects. It was here I was able to talk to Professor Carsten Welch. He talked about his role within the University and at Daresbury Labs and kindly offered for me to take part in a placement at the Cockcroft Institute where I could experience what life in research was like.
I was quit nervous on my first meeting with Carsten and his team as I know these were world class physicists and I knew very little in comparison to hem. However I needn’t have worried as everyone was nothing but welcoming and treated me as an equal.
I took part in many activities during my short time at Daresbury Labs. I would like to thank Javier, Mark, Yelong, Alex, James and the EU team for taking the time to talk me through their research and projects.
The first day was a particular highlight for me as I had the opportunity to be shown round ALICE. I had seen ALICE a couple of years ago but I was too young then to truly understand what was being said to me, so I was eager to look around again and understand how it all worked now I’d completed some work into accelerator physics in my studies in college.
ALICE was in production whilst I was there so we didn’t think it would be possible for me to see it during my placement, but Alex emailed round and managed to find a time for us to see it.
During my time at Daresbury I was able to talk with Mark about his involvement in the European Spallation Source (ESS), a project I took particular interest in. With my interest came a lot of questions, which Mark happily answered for me, showing me designs and simulations and pointing me in the right direction in terms of websites for me to research further into it. Yelong also took hours out of his day to sit with me and talk to me about his research into Dielectric Laser Driven Accelerators. As accelerators such as CERN and ALICE are quite large, Yelong explained how his research was looking into make accelerators smaller, making them more accessible for medical applications for example. This involves producing the same high energy of particles in the accelerator over a much shorter distance. Yelong explained from scratch how he sets up and uses his simulations and then let me have a go.
One of the best thing to come out of my experience at Daresbury was that it helped me understand topics at college I was struggling with, by showing me how they are applied to real world applications. Javier introduced me to a website which simulates lots of different physics based experiments, a lot of which are covered in m studies. We focused on the Cyclotron simulation in which my task was to calculate the frequency for different particles at different magnetic field strengths required for a successful cycle. After I had calculated the values it was time to put my results to the test using the simulation, and thankfully my results were correct, phew!
On my last day, I worked with the EU team, where I was able to have a go at project management. The project I was working on was an Accelerator science workshop aimed at High school students in ear 10 and 11. I had the morning to produce a Gantt chart mapping out what tasks needed to be done and when they needed to be done by. This exercise gave me an appreciation of the hard work and effort that goes into running these workshops, many of which I have attended myself. It was definitely more challenging that I first expected, but a challenge I thoroughly enjoyed.
My time at Daresbury has opened my eyes to the endless possibilities a degree in physics can provide. The range of projects taking place at the Cockcroft institute itself is outstanding. I am now hoping to continue my studies to PHD level and then continue with a career into the medical applications of Physics.
Again, I would like to thank Professor Carsten Welsch and his amazing team for this opportunity and for taking the time to show me what a life in research is like.