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CERN Student Opportunities

CERN offers tremendous opportunities for the right students to develop their skills and understanding through some of the most exciting and cutting edge projects in engineering, computing and physics.

CERN summer student scheme

CERN has placements for students who have completed 3 years of undergraduate training in physics, engineering or computing to join a team at CERN for placements lasting 2 to 3 months over the summer. It’s the chance to get involved in the day-to-day work of our multicultural teams. You will attend lectures, visit CERN facilities, take part in discussions and workshops with people who are leaders in their fields.

Further information can be found on the CERN recruitment website.

Each year, hundreds of young physicists, engineers, computer scientists and mathematicians apply to spend up to 13 weeks at CERN, attending lectures by world-leading subject specialists and working on projects that will give them a practical insight into careers in research.

Valerie Jamieson is the Features Editor of New Scientist. “It's no exaggeration to say that being a CERN summer student [in 1990] changed the course of my life. It showed that I could actually make a career from asking the most fundamental questions about the Universe. Far from sitting in ivory towers, physicists go to extraordinarily creative and ingenious lengths to answer them.”

This case study was taken from the UK News From CERN newsletter, which features many more interesting stories about the UK at CERN.


CERN technical studentships

CERN has a number of placements ranging in duration for students specializing in different technical fields and following a full-time course at an educational establishment in the Member States.

Technical studentships are mainly in the fields of computing, engineering and applied physics, with particularly large numbers taken for computing related projects. Students specialising in theoretical or experimental particle physics are not eligible for this scheme. Administrative studentships are also available for non-technical students.

Students can apply for a placement of 4 to 12 months, with those applying to the full 12 months favoured. Undergraduates must have a minimum of 18 months’ study at undergraduate level in order to be eligible.

Further information can be found on the CERN recruitment website.

Undergraduate Olivia Bailey is spending her placement year at CERN. We asked her to tell us about her work:

Olivia and ALICE
(Credit: Olivia Bailey)

“I am a technical student working in the safety team for the ALICE experiment. I have undertaken this position as a part of a yearlong industrial placement for my degree programme in Chemical Engineering at the University of Bath. I came to work at CERN because I thought it an amazing opportunity to be able to contribute in any way to this European hub of science. During my studies I have developed a specific interest in the human and environmental considerations of modern industrial processes. Whilst working with the ALICE safety team, my specific aim is to determine the fire load of the ALICE cavern. This project involves taking an inventory of all material that has been installed in the cavern to date and identifying the energy that each component would contribute in the case of a fire.

As well as the fire propagation properties of materials, I am looking into the density, toxicity and corrosivity of the gases produced during burning. The harmful gases produced in a fire situation (from the burning of plastics and other non-metallic materials) could pose a far greater risk to human life and damage to equipment than the flames themselves. It is the final aim of this initiative to have enough knowledge of the materials present underground to enable the simulation of a fire at various points in the cavern.

This simulation could allow us to identify the areas that are most at risk of fire damage and, very importantly, allow us to see how a fire would impact on the escape routes from the cavern. Since the project started in September I have been looking at the properties of the cabling in ALICE. Collating the vast amounts of information spread over the various systems of the past years has proved a challenge. Finding the relevant information has meant communication with a broad range of people from the detector groups to the CERN shop, to HSE and is still on-going.

This experience so far working for ALICE has taught me much about the time scale that tasks take outside the classroom.

Working in such a multicultural, multilingual team is a very unique and educational experience. I look forward to the rest of my year with ALICE.

This article was taken from issue 36 of the ‘UK News from CERN’ newsletter.


CERN doctoral student programme

CERN offers placements for postgraduate students to study towards a doctorate in a technical field for member states. The placement gives you the chance to work on your thesis while spending 6 to 36 months at the forefront of science. The programme is open to students from a range of specialisations from engineering, material science, mathematics and applied physics. Particle physics students are not eligible for this scheme.

Further information can be found on the CERN recruitment website.

Lorraine testing her prototype at Cornell.
(Credit: Lorraine Bobb)

Lorraine Bobb is coming to the end of her PhD with RHUL in collaboration with the John Adams Institute (JAI), CERN and Cornell University. She has been developing a non-invasive, micron scale, transverse beam size monitor. The prototype that she has designed aims to measure the vertical size of the main beam to within 1 micron. Existing techniques used at other particle accelerators including the LHC are typically based on measurements taken when the beam passes through a thin screen or wire. The problem with these methods is that the interaction of the beam with the screen or wire can damage the integrity of the beam. For the high luminosities that CLIC aims to achieve, the charge density and high energy of the beam would simply destroy the beam measurement instrumentation and therefore a non-invasive technique is required.

“A non-invasive technique (the laser wire scanner) already exists,” explains Lorraine, “but it’s expensive and technically quite demanding. CLIC needs a cheaper and easier solution.”

Lorraine, with the help of her research group, designed the new instrument, chose the materials that would be used to make it and oversaw the manufacture of the prototype. “Finding a company capable of meeting the precision machining tolerances was a challenge; the instrument, which uses a target like a tuning fork, has two prongs that must have a coplanarity (or flatness) to within tens of nanometres [a human hair is approximately 100,000 nm wide].”

Lorraine installed her prototype at CesrTA, the test accelerator at Cornell University and as she approaches the end of her PhD, she is now analysing the data.

“Early indications suggest that there is a lot of background noise caused by synchrotron radiation when observing shorter wavelengths, and that possibly the instrument needs to be positioned differently to minimise this background. But the project has enabled me to develop a new process for the practicalities of measuring beams non-invasively - getting the beam through the 1mm target aperture on a circular machine, without it hitting the sides, was a challenge.”

This article was taken from issue 38 of the ‘UK News from CERN’ newsletter.


UK students on attachment at CERN

There are many STFC funded UK doctoral students on long term attachment working on experiments at CERN. Students on long term attachment are also exposed to a wealth of opportunities and exciting experiences during their time based at CERN.

Please consult the appropriate university to find out more about these studentships opportunities.

Find out more about the UK’s involvement at CERN by subscribing to the biweekly UK News from CERN newsletter.


Work experience placements (school students)

CERN doesn’t have an official, advertised work experience programme for school students.

However, lots of students do come to CERN for work experience every year. Most are from schools in the local area or exploit family connections but this doesn’t mean that students with no existing link aren’t welcome. Here are some tips for getting a placement.


How to apply

CERN has two application deadlines per year. These are early late October for a placement beginning in spring or summer, and early June for placements beginning in late summer and autumn.

The application process for CERN is unlike anything that many students may have ever experienced before; aided by the CERN selection committee, we have created a set of guidance aimed towards universities and students to help increase the number of UK applications and raise total success rates.

All the applications are completed online, first go to the CERN website and then click on register and create a username and password. You will be led through the application process aided by the guidance document we have produced. Once the application is complete you will upload a CV, your academic transcripts, and detail your referees.

A breakdown of the areas in which technical students are currently working shows that almost half are working in Computing, with another 20% working in Electronics, 7% in General Engineering/Science areas and 9% on Mechanics. Supervisors in Computing sections are therefore very actively seeking students in every recruitment round, and have very specific search methods and criteria which they use to select from the hundreds of applications they see. They use a keyword search facility to identify applicants with the right skills sets, and look for good references from a reliable source, favouring references from University tutors whom they know and have come to trust.


Last updated: 12 August 2021


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