Science students visit the home of the Hadron Collider

During the Michaelmas term, our Physics Department led a very successful trip for Upper Sixth students to CERN (the European Organisation for Nuclear Research) in Geneva, Switzerland, to complement their on-going A Level studies.

Every day, physicists and engineers at CERN probe the fundamental structure of the universe. They use the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments to study the basic constituents of matter.

The students’ first day was spent exploring Geneva, before embarking on a journey through the Physics ‘Holy Land’. Highlights from the day included a relaxing boat trip across Lake Geneva, the breath-taking views of the Alps from St Peter’s Cathedral and an opportunity to get within 10 feet of Europe’s largest water fountain, the Jet d’Eau.

The second day included an official tour around the CERN site, starting in the very lecture theatre where the Higgs Boson discovery was announced. This provided the opportunity for students to be given an overview of the work undertaken by CERN on a daily basis and to show-off their prior knowledge of Particle Physics. They were also given the opportunity to visit the LEIR accelerator, the hydrogen canister and the Computing Centre to learn how all of the data collected by CERN is processed.

The third day involved a visit to ISOLDE, a nuclear-research facility that creates and studies super-heavy radioactive nuclei. The pupils were given a fascinating tour around the experimental detectors whilst several seminar sessions allowed them to discuss complexities they had encountered, and link them to their A-level courses.

The final highlight of the trip was a visit to the IdeaSquare, an interesting side project that sees students from around the world get together to apply the physics discovered at CERN to real-world problems. This was of great benefit and interest to our students and allowed them to get a real feel for university life.

As a final treat on the way back to the airport, the pupils were given a whistle-stop tour of the United Nations HQ, which proved to be an insightful end to an inspiring and informative trip!