Out on the job market in the real world, physicists are popular people. They can get almost any job because, well, they can do almost any job. They are good at maths, computing, logic, solution-oriented and creative thinking. They are used to working in teams, in different languages, with different cultures, so when physicists decide not to stay in physics, they might end up as investment bankers, software developers, patent lawyers, safety specialists, teachers, consultants. And probably many other professions that I’m not even aware of.
But it’s not only in life after physics that their versatility is useful. As particle physicist you are as much a brainy boffin as you are a technician with screwdriver in hand, or a manager, or an accountant – and sometimes you can be a truck driver. Tomorrow morning at 8:30 a special kind of van will leave the German lab DESY and go to CERN to deliver a beam telescope. At the wheel: coordinator and physicist (and blogger) Ingrid Gregor…
The beam telescope is about as versatile as the people who use it. You need it to check whether what you think you see with your detector really is there, a sort of cross-check mechanism, only with lots of added value. In labs around the world, scores of physicists are already working on new generations of particle detectors – like the ones busy taking data at the LHC at CERN right now. These need to be tested, and the best way to test a particle detector is to put in a beam of particles, a test beam. There are test beams at all the major labs around the world, including DESY and CERN – particles circulating in the accelerators are directed to separate areas where many smallish experimental stations receive them. Different accelerator deliver different particles, and depending on the type of tests you want to make some are more useful than others.
The beam telescope – the product of the European ‘EUDET’ project that coordinates detector development infrastructures – gets into the ring with the test detectors (all sorts of different kinds, by the way) and tests their precision. A highly precise tool itself, its six boards, fitted with silicon pixel sensors, can measure the beam particle tracks to a precision of three micrometres, while another device, typically pixel or strip detectors, can be positioned in the middle to be studied. (I stole this sentence from a NewsLine story in case you’d like to read up on the telescope). It goes to CERN for a round of shifts with ATLAS detector upgrades and has an extremely full agenda at CERN until the end of November, when Ingrid gets back into the telescope truck and hauls it back to DESY.
And now the best bit: I’ll be part of the delivery! I’ll be driving down with Ingrid, Volker the technician, EUDET the telescope and a stack of freshly made CDs…it’s a twelve-hour trip after all. You’ll be hearing more of it later!