There’s Method to the Madness, as UK hip hop artist Consensus has discovered.
STFC and CERN are working together to enable 20 undergraduate students from developing countries to join the Summer Student Programme.
Our goal is to measure whatever kind of particle beam we're given better than anybody else.
Eight years ago we didn’t know about working with scientific establishments and we didn’t know how many there were around the world.
Five UK schools are among the 28 international teams singled out for merit prizes in CERN’s annual Beamline 4 Schools competition.
There’s Method to the Madness, as UK hip hop artist Consensus has discovered. He’s been working with researchers at CMS to produce a particle physics-inspired album that challenges many people’s preconceptions about both science and hip hop; he’s in the business of “destroying stereotypes”.
Two years in the making, ‘conCERNed’ features raps about Dark Matter, the Higgs boson and antimatter. It’s not just musically good, it’s scientifically correct and that’s thanks to Consensus’ physics partner for the project, Sudan Paramesvaran (Bristol and CMS).
“He wanted to know everything!” says Sudan. “We met up at CERN and in London, and then he emailed me with lots of very specific, in-depth questions about what we do and how we do it.”
Attention to detail is important; making the album is not just an artistic collaboration, Consensus hopes that the fusion of rap and research will spike the curiosity of his fans. And he’s keen to build on the collaboration with CMS by developing science-based hip hop workshops to inspire young people.
The collaboration is part of the art@CMS project and you can listen to Consensus and Sudan discussing the project with BBC West Midlands’ Joe Aldred.
Consensus - Method to the Madness ft. Dr Koul
Supporting students at CERN
The chance to spend eight weeks at CERN is a profound personal development experience for most people who take part in the CERN Summer Student Programme. But STFC and CERN are hoping that, for some students, their experience could have a profound influence on the STEM development of their entire country.
For the first time, STFC and CERN are working together to enable 20 undergraduate students from developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa, South America, the Middle East and Asia to join the Summer Student Programme.
Funding for the students is via the UK Global Challenges Research Fund, a £1.5 billion fund announced by the UK Government to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries.
The students selected by STFC and CERN will help to strengthen the capacity for research and innovation within their countries. Exposure to the very latest physics, computing and engineering will enhance their STEM skills, and it is anticipated that they will share their newfound knowledge and contacts with fellow students and staff in their universities.
During their eight weeks at CERN, the students will be inspired by a lecture programme featuring some of the world’s leading physicists, join research teams working on ATLAS and CMS, and meet students from 93 different nationalities.
Competition for places on the CERN Summer Student Programme is stiff, but the benefits can be lifelong; the programme has been running for more than 30 years and it’s where many senior physicists gained their first taste of international collaboration.
A light detector that tells you exactly where and when you lost a tiny particle in a kilometre-long accelerator is the first commercial device to be developed by D-Beam, a spinout from the Cockcroft Institute. The start-up has joined the STFC CERN Business Incubation Centre.
Carsten Welsch and Alexandra Alexandrova (both Liverpool) are co-founders of D-Beam. Carsten is Head of Physics at Liverpool as well as leader of the QUASAR Group at the Cockcroft Institute, “The QUASAR Group is developing beam diagnostics. Our goal is to measure whatever kind of particle beam we're given - electrons, antiprotons, protons, heavy ions – and measure it better than anybody else.
“As a spinout company D-Beam will be able to translate cutting edge research into commercially available tools. These will significantly improve our understanding and control of particle beams in medicine and industry.”
Particle beams are used, for example, in cancer treatment – such as proton therapy – as well as accelerator-based facilities such as the LHC and European Spallation Source.
The company has world-leading expertise in particle beams diagnostics, developed through intense and long lasting research collaborations with CERN. It will also have access to specific parts of CERN intellectual property through the STFC CERN Business Incubation Centre.
The company’s first commercial device will be based on a new type of sensor that can monitor the ‘halo’ of particles lost by a beam. Such losses can range from being annoying ‘noise’ in experiments to causing damage to these expensive machines.
The new sensors use optical fibres fitted with advanced photo detectors; each time a stray particle crosses a fibre, it creates a light pulse that can be recorded with extreme precision, giving both a high temporal and spatial resolution. The product has been tested in a synchrotron in Australia and achieved the best time resolution for this device.
“We come from a background in academic research, where the driver is always to do better,” explains Carsten, “and perhaps to measure something that nobody has ever measured before. This commitment to achieve results lends itself very well to real world applications.”
New science facilities and major upgrades offer big opportunities for UK companies to win contracts – but there are opportunities for industry to supply CERN all the time and working with such an internationally renowned organisation can often open up new markets.
“Eight years ago we didn’t know about working with scientific establishments and we didn’t know how many there were around the world,” says Alan Crow from precision engineering firm, HV Wooding.
Then the company was introduced to CERN by another customer and won a contract to supply machined components for prototype magnets. Of the company’s £11M turnover, roughly 10% now comes from supplying labs and science institutes. “Now we’re supplying Brookhaven in the US and talking to other labs in Japan, Germany and the US”, says Alan.
HV Wooding was just one of the many companies taking part in the recent HiLumi Industry event held near Warrington. Companies from around the UK and Europe were able to hear about the challenges that the 2025 High Luminosity LHC upgrade poses, find out what’s on the shopping lists for each of the different work packages and talk directly to the engineers, accelerator physicists and procurement experts who will be issuing the tenders.
Making direct contact with project managers can often help companies win contracts at CERN. Alan agrees, “You have to make an effort to build and maintain relationships – you have to go out and see the labs. The high energy physics community is quite small and there’s a high level of trust between people at the different labs – they share recommendations.”
A first step for many companies is to take part in one of the UK@CERN industry events jointly organised by the Department of International Trade and STFC. Targeted meetings are arranged between company representatives and CERN staff who are likely to be placing relevant orders. This enables personal connections to be forged and open discussions about the scope of the tender. It’s an approach that works and many of the companies that have taken part report subsequent success in winning contracts. The next event is scheduled for 27-29 November and further information is available from Tender Opportunities.
Five UK schools are among the 28 international teams singled out for merit prizes in CERN’s annual Beamline 4 Schools competition. 180 schools from 43 countries took part in the competition and the standard of the proposals to carry out a real experiment on a real beamline is getting higher every year.
The teams from City of Norwich School (East Anglia), University College School (London), Heckmondwike Grammar School (West Yorkshire), Queen Marys College (Basingstoke) and Ysgol Glan Clwyd (North Wales) will each receive a Cosmic Pi detector to start researching cosmic rays.
Pre-registrations for the 2018 competition are open now. While you’re thinking about your proposal, here’s what Max Raven, a member of last year’s winning team from the UK (see UKNFC75), thought about the competition:
“In 2016 I was a member of ‘Relatively Special’, one of two winning teams in the Beamline for Schools (BL4S) competition 2016. We were invited to perform our experiment using the Proton Synchrotron at CERN over the course of two weeks in September.
Throughout the duration of my stay at CERN I was surrounded by distinguished scientists and engineers who treated us with respect and maturity. As a student this was both refreshing and appreciated. We were assigned responsibilities for ensuring both the safe operation of the T9 experimental area as well as the successful completion of our experiment. Working alongside professionals who had an all-around knowledge of the experiment we proposed was extremely useful and I learnt a great deal of new skills.
The abundant opportunities we were afforded during our time at CERN has definitely helped me to decide on my future career as an Engineer. Whilst working in the control room I noticed the trigger logic set-up of our experiment and had a few questions about how each component worked. When I mentioned this to Markus, the project leader for BL4S, he was extremely knowledgeable and embraced my interest. He mentored me in how to use the trigger logic and even offered me the opportunity to design the cabling for the second half of our experiment! I quickly formed a team with my fellow students and we worked together to solve the challenge. This was one of my favourite moments during BL4S and has inspired me to always pursue my scientific curiosity.
In my opinion, the most beneficial impact of BL4S has been the strong team-working and communication skills I developed. Every member of the English and Polish winning teams were encouraged to engage in collaborative projects, and we thrived on the friendships that were forged. We worked, dined, and interacted with scientists from across the world, all the time discussing our learnings and discovering new ideas. This invaluable experience has been instrumental to developing my interpersonal skills, which are vital for a successful career in Engineering.
On my return to England, the confidence, curiosity, and excitement that flourished during my time at CERN convinced me to pursue my dream of studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I am convinced my experience at CERN has been instrumental in helping me to craft my successful application to study Undergraduate Engineering at MIT, and I am incredibly grateful for the amazing staff and generous sponsors of BL4S, all of whom helped to make my dream a reality.”