Photo:

Pierre Lasorak

Favourite Thing: The thing I really like about science is that it is infinite! We can never know everything and there are always some funny things in all the corners! This is why what I prefer to do is actually browsing the articles/lectures on the web and feed my soul with weird theories or checking out experiments.

My CV

Education:

Universitat Jaume Primer (Castellón, Spain), INSA (Lyon, France), IIT (Delhi, India), Queen Mary (London, UK)

Qualifications:

Master in engineering and a master in astroparticle and particle physics

Work History:

Technician in Silicon Valley, Intern at IIT Delhi, Intern at Queen Mary.

Current Job:

PhD student

Employer:

Queen Mary university

Me and my work

I am a research student at Queen Mary University; I am studying neutrinos.

I am studying neutrinos. Neutrinos are one of what we call “fundamental particles”, which means we can’t separate them. Fundamental particles (neutrinos, electrons, quarks, bosons), are the actual smallest things the scientists came up with since the beginning of the 1900’s. These fundamental particles are the constituents of everything, water, iron, Earth, Sun… They are even filling the vacuum(!) Since their successive discoveries, particle physics scientists (like me) are trying to understand their properties, how they “behave”… They are several ways of doing this, but a fairly easy one is to literally smash them together when they have a very high speed and try to see if something strange pops out in a detector.

Now for the neutrinos: From all the fundamental particles, the neutrinos are the most abundant in the universe, so it is very important to know their properties to understand our universe. Secondly, almost all observations that we make now on Earth when we smash particles together agree very, very well with the theory of what is called the standard model of particle, all except the observations we make about neutrinos. This means that we don’t really understand some things that happen with them.

The experiment that I am working on is based in Japan, it is called T2K. The name T2K means Tokai to Kamioka. They are 2 places on each side of Japan where the experiment takes place. What happens is that we create neutrinos in Tokai and let them propagate all the way to Kamioka, which is 280km further. Then we detect the neutrinos in a huge swimming pool with thousands of detectors all around it. In this way we can study some transport properties of the neutrinos like oscillations…

 

My Typical Day

My day consists of a lot of computer work, either reading articles, either creating programs that analyse the data that was recorded in Japan. Meanwhile I like to have smoothies/teas/biscuits.

My typical working day is quite simple: I arrive at the university and log on the computer, on which I spend basically all the day. Of course there are some times where I do something different from being on a computer: I interact with other students when I struggle with a problem, or sometimes with professors (for bigger problems), I also attend few classes, I solve problems with a pen and sheet of paper too, and I take coffee breaks…

My work is like a very big problem of mathematics, and I will probably need several months to solve it. There were some times when I worked several day to solve a part of the problem, and I found out that I was completely wrong! This is very normal for a scientist (or everybody) in front of a hard problem to make big mistakes and to get everything wrong. It’s important to know what were the errors and find out why something went wrong.

I basically use the computer as a super-calculator. The computer makes long and repetitive calculations with the data recorded in the experiment. My job is to tell what the computer should do if I want to solve my problem. We also discuss with scientists of the lab (at my university or anywhere in the world) how we should do it, who does what… We can have long discussion through Skype for example.

There are some other things also sometimes that I have to do, like attend some conference, where scientists from other experiments come and present their results, otherwise I read a lot of articles to try to stay up to date!

What I'd do with the money

I’d explain the Big Bang with Lego in 2 of your schools!

There is a very nice “game” that my university created, and it involves Lego, which is a lot of fun. The goal is to explain particle physics with Lego. I plan to randomly choose 2 schools of London and spend one afternoon in each of them to have a small event where I would try to explain stuffs like Big Bang, nuclear processes like fusion and fission or just general particle physics with a set of Lego.

In the mean time, I am thinking of expanding this game to something which involve my field of research, the neutrinos. This is rather complicated and I am not exactly sure how this could be possible… I’d like to do something either with supernovae and neutrinos or something with neutrino oscillations, which is a very weird property of the neutrinos (that is why I am not sure it is possible to explain it with Lego)! In this case, the money would be used to create a “test” set of Lego.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

I’m a curious, I am veeery messy, and I love cycling around London.

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Radiohead, Alt-J

What's your favourite food?

Veggies (fried peppers especially)

What is the most fun thing you've done?

2 years ago I did several hikes in Himalayas and saw the sunrise over the 3rd highest mountain of the world (Kangchenjunga)

What did you want to be after you left school?

I wanted to be engineer (I think)

Were you ever in trouble at school?

Yes, I slept/got bored in class many times

What was your favourite subject at school?

Maths, break time

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Teach and transmit my passion for science to high school students

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

Several good teachers, my friends, my parents

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

Psychoanalyst

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

Learn Italian/Hindi/Ancient Greek/Latin(!) Go to South pole. Go to Iceland.

Tell us a joke.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was neutrinos.

Other stuff

Work photos:

Ok so the first picture is the huge swimming pool I was talking about. All the golden round things are the detectors.  You can also see some scientists are fixing the detectors on a boat:

myimage1

 

The second picture is what we call an “event display”, this is what every detector “sees” when a neutrino interacts in the swimming pool above:

myimage2

 

And the last drawing is what to explain the experiment. The neutrinos are created on the right hand side a the JPARC. They travel all the way through the  mountains in Japan and then we detect them in the swimming pool (on the left of the image Super-Kamiokande).

myimage3