At the end of the Spring Term, students in the Upper Fifth spent a week working with a company of their choice to get a feel for professional working environments.
Below is William Lewin's account of his experience at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, in Switzerland.
I am just about to go to CERN and I am very excited – albeit apprehensive – about work experience. I spent about an hour reading up on CERN and I am very pleased to have landed a placement. As far as I know, I will be working in the technical department with a member of the electrical power converters group. I went to find out what they do but maintenance, installation and examination of “solid state klystron modulators” isn't particularly helpful. Looking forward to it and and very grateful with all the work that has gone into this to get me this far. Thanks to my dad for the help, couldn't have done it without him.
Monday was amazing. It wasn't what I expected, however it was very enjoyable nonetheless. I spent it in building 886 working alongside engineers who were working on making radiation resistant FGCs or function generator controllers that control the strength of the magnets. I was with the testing team that tested all the circuits they received from the manufacturers. It's a tiring process but they didn't need to do it, only write the code for others to do it. I learnt a lot and enjoyed it, but I did need a while to just relax and take it all in. Also I beat a mechanical engineer at chess! He said he wasn't very good but I was just a bit better.
The highlight of Tuesday was going to the CCC or CERN control center in the afternoon. It is a huge room as big as a hall with four islands in it. Each island controls an accelerator apart from the last one which controls the cryogenics of the place. Each island has about 30 monitors and there were some computers with seven of them. It was awesome. We were there to run some tests on the magnet controllers that had been installed however, it took so long to cool the magnets down that I didn't actually see the tests. Oh well, I spent the first part of the day learning about the software used for testing. Overall it had been a very good day.
I spent Wednesday learning how to design PCBs and finding out how to use the software. I also saw the power converter room for LINAC 4 which will be CERN's newest accelerator - though it's only a small one. The room is noisy, full of power converters that are going to power the new accelerator and overall it was amazing to be there. I started making a small dice PCB and have already designed it. Now I am wiring it up as much as I can though I may Have to use both sides to avoid crossing wires. I have enjoyed my week so far and have found a lot about the electronics at CERN. I also have some interesting pictures to show for it which I will probably send at the end of the week.
Well today I finished the design of the board I was making and I have now soldered on the components. It works well however we forgot the on switch so we will have to add one on. Shouldn't be too hard though it may not fit in the case. I also got to get some old boards that could have been part of CERN (and are on an alternate universe). The circuit I have been working on is a dice that uses a timer to stop a clock when you press a button. This is similar to how computers generate random number, by using temperature or locations in memory as a trigger. I will be able to take home the finished product on Friday and I am looking forward to showing it to people.
Thanks to you all for reading these posts, I had a really good time and would definitely recommend going there if you have the choice. It is a brilliant environment and it was a pleasure to work there.