Getting started in particle physics.10th August 2018
How and why did I get into Particle Physics? Really, the better question should be: How did Particle Physics appear in my life?
Honestly, when I was a child going to secondary school, I hated physics with all my heart. As a kid, I really wanted to be in IT and work with networks - I dreamt about becoming the most notorious hacker of all time. I was born in a small village of no more than 2 thousand people. There were no physicists there, no IT specialists – no scientists. Only farmers and cows. That was the place I spent my entire childhood.
When I was about 16 years old, I went to high school. There, I met a really great physics teacher. She was also my class supervisor. In high school, I slowly started changing my mind and seeing that physics is not a board with millions of equations and formulas. It’s actually everything that surrounds us.
In Poland, if you want to study at a University, you have to pass a “matura” exam after 3 years of high school. I remember that, after school, I still wasn’t sure who I was going to be in the future. I passed the “matura” exam and applied for admission to WUT (Warsaw University of Technology). The thing is that you have to choose 3 faculties that you want to study at and place them in priority order. The first one is the most important to you, and if your grades are not good enough to study there, they check if you can study at your second choice, and so on.
On the final day of application submission, I changed my mind again and changed my first choice from IT to Physics.
Imagine tossing a coin: each side of the coin determines your future. Does Fate really exist? My story is not that extraordinary, but that day I listened to something that made me bet on Physics. It’s how I started in this field.
The first year at the Faculty of Physics is nothing special, everybody has to study Calculus, General Physics and so on. After building a foundation, you have to choose the specialization you want to study. One of the specializations offered was Computer Physics, and I had my eyes on it.
It was the first step on my path to Particle Physics. It’s taken for granted that if you get a bachelor's in Computer Physics, you continue on to a Master's in Nuclear Physics or Mathematical Modelling.
During the 3rd year at University, you have to intern at a company for practice and training. My professor offered me an opportunity to go to JINR (Joint Institute for Nuclear Research) and do my internship there*. I agreed without a second thought. I realised that it was a great opportunity to visit a country I had never been to before. And I had heard quite a bit about JINR. I visited the Institute and saw what it was like to work there. I felt that it was a good place for me.
My professor, together with my practice supervisor, suggested I write my Master's thesis in collaboration with JINR. This meant that my Master studies would be in Nuclear Physics. I agreed.
I wrote the thesis and graduated. My paper focused more on engineering than on science. My task was to prepare a cooling system for one of the sub-detectors that would be used in the NICA (Nuclotron based Ion Collider fAcility) complex.
After obtaining my Master's degree, I had a choice to make. I could continue my life as a researcher or I could work for a private company.
Since I'm writing this on behalf of JINR and preparing material for my PhD dissertation, – the path I chose is rather obvious!
I would like to take a moment to thank two people. They helped me find my true self and this place - my physics teacher Mrs. Maria Achtabowska and my MSc supervisor Prof. Jan Pluta.
*More information about the International Student Practice is available here: http://ucnew.jinr.ru/en/isp and you can even find some of my projects there