CERN openlab promotes high-tech internships in a multicultural setting

Every year, hundreds of summer students bring a breath of fresh air to CERN, filling the restaurants and auditoriums with new energy. Among them, you’ll find 15 students from 13 countries whose main interests lie in computing: the CERN openlab summer students.


CERN openlab students, summer 2011.

CERN openlab is a unique collaboration between CERN and industrial partners (HP, Intel, Oracle and Siemens) carrying out large-scale research and development in the field of information technologies. Since 2003, CERN openlab has hosted 147 students in their own summer student programme. “Through our collaboration with industry, we are given access to cutting-edge technology well before it goes on the market,” says Sverre Jarp, Chief Technology Officer for CERN openlab and coordinator of the student programme. “The openlab summer students spend two months working with this hardware and software, while also getting hands-on experience with the advanced IT solutions used in high energy physics.”

The openlab student programme takes in undergraduate and postgraduate students in computer science and physics for a summer at CERN. The programme includes a series of lectures given by IT experts on advanced CERN computing topics, ranging from Grid middleware to software security. “Our lecture series is open to all summer students, however they are specifically  aimed at IT-oriented students,” says Sverre.

Along with these lectures, the openlab student programme gives students the opportunity to work on specialised computing projects with real applications. This year, student Grace Young from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is working on adding functionality to the data analysis programs used by CERN physicists. “I am developing new classes on top of the ROOT software,” she says. “Although I will only be here for two months, we will be able to offer the software to LHC physicists online before I leave.”

At the end of their stay, many openlab students apply for follow-up positions in the IT Department. “Over the 9 years the programme has been running, over 30 students have returned as technical students or fellows,” says Bob Jones, Head of CERN openlab. “We hope to see some of the class of 2011 back at their desks over the next few years!”

by Katarina Anthony