Visit to CERN

Apart from having the honour to conduct our master theses for CERN, another great opportunity came along for my classmate Melchior and me – to pay a visit to the renowned facility! Our supervisor, professor Patrick Van Hees decided to join us for the visit, so the Lund University – CERN crew was complete.

After working hard on our projects for the first half of the semester, we knew that the upcoming visit was just what we needed – to get a better and clearer picture of the facility and its hazards, and to get some additional inspiration and motivation for the final stage of our thesis development.

Already landing in Geneva, we were amazed seeing the incredible Mont Blanc from the air, and realized how blessed people working and living in CERN and in the Alpes region were.

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Mont Blanc

The following morning, Lund University crew met up with IMFSE alumni Oriol Rios, currently working at CERN, and the visit could officially start. Our guide for the 1st day was Javier Cuadrado, working in CERN’s fire brigade, and volunteering as a tour guide in CERN. The visit started in the “museum” room where the first CERN’s accelerator Synchrocyclotron is exhibited. Synchrocyclotron provided beams for CERN’s first experiments in particle physics and nuclear physics, and it was used for remarkably long time – 33 years.


The visit continued on to the ATLAS control room and subsequently to the CERN Control Centre. Already then, we started to get a real feel of the size and the complexity of the whole facility. Besides that it was interesting seeing the number of screens and people working in control centres – it reminded of sci-fi movies 😊.

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Art Arnalich explaining the “sci-fi” room

Next stop was the firefighter training centre having the real size model of the LHC tunnel. It was really positive and pleasant observing how seriously CERN takes both fire prevention and firefighting!

The LHC real size model

We continued on to the SM18 cryogen test facility. We were immediately stunned by the amount of equipment and apparatus present in the room – from numerous electrical cabinets and racks, over endless cables and wires, to magnets and parts of accelerators. Once again, we became aware of the huge size and complexity of CERN and of its uniqueness.



Next up was a presentation session by the people working with safety in CERN, where Oriol Rios presented what CERN fire engineering team is working on, how is the job organized, and who are the fire team members – namely:

Saverio La Mendola, Art Arnalich, Marco Andreini, Fabio Corsanego, Giordana Gai and Oriol Rios.

Oriol Rios presenting the CERN fire team

The final part of the day was dedicated to visiting the core of the whole facility – CMS. The Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) is a detector at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), and as it is located 100m below ground connected to the experimental setup in tunnels, it can only be visited while experiments are not running. Luckily, we paid our visit during the winter technical stop, and we were welcomed for this exciting underground tour by CMS LEXGLIMOS (large experiments group leader in matters of safety) Niels Dupont.

IMFSE crew at CERN
Niels Dupont telling about CMS

As we were going below ground by the elevator, we were realizing only even more how extraordinary CERN was. After a tour through several chambers we arrived to probably the most impressive chamber all of us have witnessed where CMS was located. Seeing such a massive device with so many machines and detectors attached to it, and on top of that built 100m below ground chamber was staggering. Continuing with thinking of how many scientists and engineers from all fields had to provide their expert work in order to make something so complex actually operate smoothly. A truly inspiring moment that confirmed that there are no limits if knowledge and good organization are combined!

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Excitement is obvious!

On the second day of our visit, we first went to the fire brigade. Being an ex-firefighter officer, Art Arnalich, together with Javier Cuadrado, showed us the main rooms in the brigade, explained us how does the brigade in such a big facility operate, and eventually showed us the equipment used by the CERN firefighters.

Art Arnalich and Javier Cuadrado sharing the secrets behind the CERN fire brigade! + Our fire engineer & firefighter Melchior getting the feel of the equipment!

The final stop for our visit was the Antimatter factory where scientists are “trapping” anti-protons and examining their properties, with e.g. the ACE experiment testing the use of antiprotons for cancer therapy. Another extraordinary laboratory.


At the end of the second day, we unfortunately had to say goodbye to our dear hosts from CERN, and to the facility itself. Nevertheless, the experience of visiting a facility where people from all over the world are using and developing high-end knowledge in solving the most complex problems was really motivating and definitely gave us a good inspiration for the start of our fire safety engineering careers.

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Bye CERN, bye dear fire team! Thanks for having us 🙂 

Do you want to be a Brandman?

If you are wondering what is a Brandman, it is actually Swedish for fireman. As a sequel to Gerard’s post on our visit to Södra Älvsborg’s Rescue Service Federation and RISE, I shall now feature our next BRIGHT and HOT visit (it was literally a bright and hot day since Spring has officially started and we are closing in on Summer) to MSB College Revinge!!!

MSB stands for Myndigheten för samhällsskydd och beredskap (try pronouncing that correctly…) which means the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency. It is steered by the Swedish Government and is responsible for issues concerning civil protection, public safety, emergency management and civil defence. Their college in Revinge is one of the MSB facilities that provide education and training to budding brandmän and brandingenjörer (firemen and fire engineers) before they enter the field of duty. This provided all firefighters with the same qualifications and common ground before they join the fire stations which are developed according to the community it serves. To provide you with a better understanding on the training that goes on in MSB Revinge, here’s a little clip that showcases some of the training facilities available in Revinge:

During our visit, we were able to witness the exercises for station officers. Our first stop was a simulation of a fire in an industrial area. The exercise was particularly interesting as the trainers went to much length to ensure the exercise was as close to reality as possible. This included a back story that was just enough for the trainees to understand the context but not too detailed in order to leave room for the trainees to discover upon reaching the scene on the course of action. From arriving on scene, questioning the survivors (who were trainers acting as workers from the factory) to obtain more information on the situation, exploring possible points of entry for rescue and strategising rescue operation … the trainees were basically left on their own to manoeuvre the operation. The sense of ownership and responsibility placed on these trainees even during training is important for them to develop situational awareness and independence when approached with real life scenarios in the future. By the way, if you are expecting firemen to act like those in the movies with a flurry of dramatic action and people running here and there shouting orders, you will be amazed at how professionally firemen conducted themselves in real life. There was a methodological way in which firemen approached situations from studying the building and its surroundings and weighing their course of action. One wrong move could prove deadly both to the victims and the firemen themselves. The way the trainees conducted themselves with a sense of calm yet maintaining a sense of urgency gives us a sense of assurance of their reliability when they are fully qualified and enter the field.

We then made a slight detour where we witness trainee rescuers attend to a railway incident which involves survivors trapped in a flipped over, derailed train. Our hearts when to the trainees as they had to work within a confined space (inside the train compartment) in sweltering heat wearing thick insulating uniform. At the same time they were carefully stretchering people (and here I mean REAL life humans… acting as the injured passengers of the train) out of the train through small openings on the train and had to use heavy machinery too. We tried out handling some of these equipment and it was no easy feat… Hats off to them and other rescuers all over the world. We salute your hard work and sacrifice…

After a short break and a tour around the station, its time for the next fire scenario: a fire in a hotel. As the trainees arrived on scene and worked their way through the obstacle, we were reunited with an old friend whom has guided us through our lab sessions back in Lund University. Remember Kate’s blog post where she introduced Prof. Stefan Svensson, our lab mentor? Well, he is now in MSB training the future of Sweden’s fire fighting squad. Although he was acting as the police in the scenario (the trainees should identify when scenarios would require police involvement… its not always just about fighting fire), Professor Stefan took some time to explained to us how we should internalize witnessing these exercises into our future work as fire safety engineers. We are often pre-occupied on how to design a building resistant to fire but do we put enough consideration on the impact of our design to the operational needs of the fire fighters when a fire actually occur?

The visit proved to be an eye-opening experience as we are able to witness first hand what fire fighters go through in their call of duty. We have a greater appreciation for the sacrifices that fire fighter go through in their operation and how fire engineers should take into account their needs to facilitate their work towards the same goal… saving lives. Much thanks to MSB Revinge for providing us with the rare but valuable opportunity to visit their facility and witness their exercises. Thank you for the kind hospitality and we will  definitely carry the lessons learnt through to our future careers. Tack så mycket!!! 🙂


A collage of theses at Lund University.

These last weeks in Sweden have been kind of intense with submissions and exams but not only for us the freshmen but for seniors as well. Four of the IMFSE seniors did their thesis at Lund University, Alejandra, Darko, Juan, and Melchior. Each of them had a limited time to present their work to the public and then they had to answer questions that the examiner, opponents, and the public might have (it sounds scary to me but I’ll have to deal with it next year, hopefully, :D).

In this blog I’ ll give a short “presentation” about these four theses but if you are more interested in any of the topics you can drop an email to these guys and they will be happy to help J.

Alejandra Velasco: “My thesis was about the effect of fatigue during deep metro evacuation and its implication on evacuation modeling tools. Metro stations are widely used and their usage is increasing over the years. Few studies can be found concerning the implication of fatigue, therefore, keeping in mind this particular knowledge gap and by merging two science fields, fire safety engineering, and ergonomics. The purpose of my thesis was to determine how people’s evacuation performance is affected by carrying weight (8 kg) while performing a stair-climbing exercise.

A laboratory experiment was conducted, in which participants performed three different experimental sessions. The first test that participants had to perform was a sub-maximal test and the other two sections were stair-climbing exercises, in one of the tests the participant had an additional weight of 8 kg. As well I used evacuation modeling tools and it is necessary that they put an effort to include fatigue into evacuation modeling tools so that it can resemble more accurately a natural human response”

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I had as well the chance to participate in Alejandra’s experiment, and as you can see in the picture after a couple of minutes climbing with a backpack I was tired, I guess this is called fatigue J.

Darko Perovic: “My thesis was in collaboration with CERN and the aim was to better understand the potential fire behavior of most common combustible items present in CERN’s facilities. After a detailed literature review of fires in electronic cabinets, I developed an Excel calculator for obtaining a design fire in any number of cabinets/racks. Since there are not many literatures for small vehicles in fire, I introduced as well suggestions on how to address the fires used at CERN. The second part of my thesis is designed to explore and test suitable techniques that CERN might use with the goal of characterizing smoke production by common cables and insulating oils used in their premises. Hence, this thesis tries to present the state of art in the mentioned fields and to use the knowledge obtained in literature and by conducting experiments with a goal of further familiarizing with hazards common for nuclear facilities.”

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Juan Manuel Chaves: “My thesis is an experimental study on effective width through openings using Kinect. The effective width model was introduced to show how the flow was linearly proportional to the effective width on stairwells accounting for the edge effect as well as lateral body sway. A fundamental part of this model is the use of effective width for each specific section of the evacuation route being analyzed. In my experiments, I used the Kinect v2 sensor as a tool to measure the dimensions of the boundary layer on three simple scenarios considering low-density flows. Two experiments were  performed an individual and a group one, the first aimed at calibration and unimpeded walking behavior analysis and the latter aimed to provide valuable data to analyze the dimensions of the boundary layer in openings when considering simple low-density flows in the selected configurations. As a conclusion, the boundary layer changes its dimension depending on the width of the opening.”

Melchior Schepers: “In my thesis, I researched the possibility of using FDS and its HVAC module for multi-scale modeling of fire and smoke spread in the LHC accelerator in use at CERN. Multi-scale modeling is a novel approach to fire modeling in situations where the size of the domain prevents it from being modeled completely in 3D. By splitting the domain between a 1D and 3D portion, multi-scale modeling allows for much faster simulations which still adhere to the correct boundary conditions. In my thesis, I built a model representing one section of the LHC tunnel and subsequently subjected it to a number of sensitivity analyses. This led to some remarkable results such as the fact that the simulation results were relatively insensitive to a bunch of parameters, both in the 1D and 3D domain. In the end, it was a really interesting topic, but I also learned that a lot more research in this particular field is needed.”

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Quite interesting topics don’t you think? I wish all the IMFSE seniors good luck with the graduation and best of luck in your career as future FSE :).



IMFSE Sprinklers!

Sunny days are here. Suddenly, everything has color and everyone gets out of their hibernation. What is the best activity to enjoy the warm weather than to play sports under the sun? The organization of fire protection engineering and risk management students hosted a football tournament last May 13. The IMFSE crew was invited to participate and we named our team “Sprinklers”.


The IMFSE Sprinklers! (Photo Courtesy: Ayyappa Mohan)

To be honest, the IMFSE group came unprepared. Everyone was shocked to see the Swedish teams in full gears. However, that did not intimidate and stop us from enjoying the event and scoring some points. Thanks to our star players, Jamie Crum and Bogdan Albulescu, and our goalkeeper, Andrei Lazouski. We battled with four other teams. And although we did not win any game, we proudly wore our IMFSE shirts with the flame logo on top of our hearts. The spirit of camaraderie was felt from everyone with all of the cheers and shouts. If there was a best cheering team award, it would have been for IMFSE Sprinklers, haha!


The Sprinklers just having a good time together. (Photo Courtesy: Ayyappa Mohan)


Enjoying fika! (Photo Courtesy: Ayyappa Mohan)

In the end, everyone enjoyed and to quote my classmate Bogdan, “…it was the best since I am on this program.” Now, on to more challenges with blazing hearts, IMFSE Sprinklers!

Valborg or Walpurgis Night in Lund

Walpurgis Night is celebrated in many European countries on night of 30 April and the day of 1 May. For example, in Estonia, Volbriöö is an important and widespread celebration of the arrival of spring in the country. It is celebrated throughout the night of 30 April, and 1 May is a public holiday called “Spring Day” (Kevadpüha).  In Finland, Walpurgis night (Vappu) is one of the four biggest holidays along with Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Walpurgis witnesses the biggest carnival-style festival held in Finland’s cities and towns. In Czech Republic huge bonfires are built and burnt in the evening, preferably on top of hills to celebrate coming spring.

Valborg, as this celebration is called in Swedish, also marks the arrival of spring. The forms of celebration vary in different parts of the country and between different cities. Walpurgis celebrations are not a family occasion but rather a public event. Celebrations normally include lighting the bonfire, choral singing and a speech to honour the arrival of the spring season, often held by a local celebrity.


IMFSE students also joined evening celebration in Lund and we were feeling as we are a part of the big friendly community, participating in the huge gathering in Stadsparken. That day park was visited by around 30,000 people. The police and the municipality have been working on the preparations since the turn of the year. People were celebrating coming spring from the early morning, and the festivity epically finished in the evening by the huge bonfire.

In one of her blogs, Farah has already told that though fire can be a source of joy and celebration, we as Fire Safety Engineers know about the danger of it. So usually we are always highly concerned about fire safety in the public places, and and this time we also paid a lot of attention to adherence of safety rules. Discovered that everything is fine, everyone is standing at the good distance from fire, and fire extinguishers are on their place, we started celebration of our first Valborg in Sweden!







The Future is BRIGHT and HOT!

That is the caption that I put on my latest Facebook profile picture taken during the 1st-year IMFSE students’ trip to Borås, Sweden. So, what is with the caption? It goes like this. Honestly, when I was choosing between two international programs a year ago, I am having some doubt whether to go with the IMFSE or the other one. I shared about that in my first two blogs. Questions like “What will I do after this?”, “Is there a good job opportunity waiting for me after I graduate?”, and “Is it a good strategy to take a specialized field to win in my career as an engineer?” are always in the back of my mind. During this trip, I could remember telling one of my classmates “Fire engineering is indeed alive!” after seeing several career paths that we as fire engineering students could embark ourselves into after this program.

IMFSE’s typical Thursday morning is either a lecture or a seminar. But the Thursday that is April 26 is a different one. The whole class decided to visit two world-class FSE facilities in Borås, Sweden. We first visited the Södra Älvsborgs Räddningstjänstförbund (Södra Älvsborg’s Rescue Service Federation), an emergency rescue training facility which has trained not only Swedish firefighters but also firefighters from nearby countries and from countries as far as Australia and Malaysia.


The visit there started with a good fika which filled up our stomach after a four-hour drive from Lund. We then proceeded to a lecture room. From the short lecture, I realized that learning how to put on a rescue suit as fast as possible and how to operate a rescue equipment is not the only competency that a firefighter should have. A good firefighter should also have substantial knowledge of fire dynamics so that he/she will be able to fight fire properly and not to aggravate the situation. After the lecture, we went to try an armalite-like water gun with ultra-high pressure than can reach up to 300 bars. Given the pressure, I was expecting that it there would be a huge recoil force but to my surprise, it is very light. That equipment is better than the Cobra in terms of handling because the backward force by the Cobra is higher and it will need at least 2 people to operate and support this force. With everything that I saw and heard from the training facility, I am giving a salute to all firefighters who risk their lives in order to save more lives.


Our next stop is RISE or the Research Institute of Sweden where we were toured by one of our lecturers in Advanced Fire Dynamics, Haukur Ingason. After having a sumptuous lunch, we went to a conference room where several PhD students and researchers of RISE discussed their studies to us. The tour started afterwards. I was astonished by how massive and how high-tech the laboratories of this state-of-the-art research institute are. There is one big hall solely dedicated for the 50-MW cone calorimeter used to test big fires such as a vehicle fire. The next room is my favorite – a structural fire safety laboratory with big furnaces used to test structural elements and facades. This room comes with a bonus: good party music. After that, we went to the materials laboratory where the fire properties of several materials are experimented. This is where I saw in actual the sets of equipment that we discussed in our Explosions and Industrial Fire Safety course last semester in Ghent University.


With everything that I learned from this tour, I can say that fire safety engineering, as specialized as it may be, is as relevant as other engineering disciplines are. The way technology evolves very fast makes it more of an interesting subject especially with the global trend of using other forms of energy to replace the conventional fossil fuel which has been around for centuries and is expected to be depleted in a couple of decades. Fire safety engineering also applies to new inventions that sooner or later will be adapted to our buildings and homes. It also applies to natural and man-made disasters brought by rapid changes in our climate. Indeed, the future is bright and hot in FSE!

Retrospecting Lund

It has been a while since my last post, but being part of this program you realize that time flies so fast and you are already at the end of your first academic year. Well, there have been 4 months already being at Lund University in Sweden. The university is amazing and Lund is nice (except the fact that the weather is cold and temperatures can go -15 degrees C), I very much love the courses taught here and taking into account human behavior as another active input when you do fire design is quite a challenge.


Human behavior in Fire was one of the subjects which I enjoyed this semester the most. Being able to understand the way how we think and perceive our surrounding is a very difficult task per se, now imagine how difficult it is to understand our behavior in case of fire. I was very surprised to learn that the majority of accidents and fatalities in a fire incident are caused due to lack of information and underestimation of the fire phenomena (just find the fastest way to go out when a fire alarm goes off). During a class the professor had to explain the densities of people within a square meter and in order to understand it better we volunteered to fill the space and perceive what does it mean to be packed in a crowd and how difficult it is to move (this “experiment’ was ethical,   everyone volunteered to be on the stage haha).

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Advanced Fire Dynamics labs were as well very interesting and we had the possibility to burn different materials and compare them (burning is fun cit. Stefan) and as well raise our own scientific question and solve for it.

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But the best classes where during the afternoons at the tea rooms in PJ-s dormitories, studying how to play and win UNO, how to taste good Indian, Colombian food, great Italian coffee, our performance at Swedish Fika I must admit was very high 😛 (culture studies are as well very important and bring us closer as a group :D)

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And finally, the weather is getting better and better here in Sweden, well not the spring or weather of the Mediterranean region, but improvements have been noticed 😀