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.
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 😊.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.