At the heart of CERN for one night

Some 200 young people, mostly from neighbouring Switzerland or France – but also from Italy, Great Britain and Poland – took part in Researchers Night on Friday, 23 September. Interviewed by the Bulletin after they had returned from the control rooms of the LHC and its experiments, the pupils were full of enthusiasm following, by all accounts, an unforgettable evening.


Participants of the 2011 Researchers Night enjoy their visit to CMS.

The second edition of CERN Researchers Night was a great success, with international participants as well as a substantial local contingent. Some 200 young people aged 13 to 18 registered on the event’s website and spent two hours in one of the control rooms of the LHC machine and its experiments. Laëtitia Pedroso, a member of the Communication Group who participated in the organisation of this event, noted with satisfaction: “Most of the pupils came from neighbouring France and Switzerland, but we also welcomed Italian, British and Polish visitors. Compared with last year, this year’s pupils came from a greater variety of schools, which shows that the event is gaining more recognition."

Researchers Night has become a highlight for the local public, as it is an opportunity to see parts of CERN that are normally closed. “I learned a lot from this visit,” said Paulo, a pupil in the Cycle d’Orientation de Cayla, a Geneva secondary school. “CERN's Control Centre experts explained to us how the accelerator works and what has to be done to get the particles to collide."

“I love physics, I love everything to do with the future, and I’m very happy to be here!” exclaimed Rafael, from the Cycle d’Orientation des Colombières, also in Geneva. Arthur, a pupil from a French secondary school—the Lycée Saint-Michel, in Annecy—had a chance to visit LHCb, and added: "We talked about matter and antimatter, we saw real particle tracks, and we saw some real collisions!" Marjorie, a pupil at the same school, was surprised to see the results of an identification exercise by the ATLAS team showing examples of the kinds of traces that would be left in the wake of a Higgs boson.

The evening ended late, as befits a 'Researchers Night'. It was the end of a long day for Corinne Pralavorio, who is responsible for local communication at CERN. Her assessment of the event:  “The local public seems to appreciate this kind of initiative. Researchers Night gives young people the opportunity to experience the reality of research for two hours; an experience that is all the more fantastic for taking place after nightfall. I'm happy at the end of the event to see young people inspired and motivated by physics!”

For those who missed this opportunity:  you can still visit CERN (although not all the control centres) from Monday to Saturday by making a reservation with the CERN Visit Service.   

by CERN Bulletin