Student in Year 13 recently undertook work experience at CERN in Switzerland below you will find his report.
I visited CERN for the first time in January as part of a school trip, where we were given a presentation and brief
tour of some of the different parts of CERN. However, as we only stayed for one day, I left the trip eager to know
more. I considered studying maths or physics at university, but decided that engineering would be the better option,
as it combines the two. However, I was still unsure which branch of engineering was right for me. As part of my final
year in sixth form, I had to arrange a work experience placement. I thought I would aim high and apply to CERN,
never expecting it to be possible! I emailed CERN as they employ a large team of engineers, to see if they offered
any work placement for pre-university students. After talking with HR and support from James Devine, an
electrical engineer, I soon found myself visiting for a week of work experience in October half-term.
The first day started with me attending a guided tour at the Superconducting Magnet Test Facility, where
James was giving a talk to school groups who were visiting for the day. After this, I returned to the electrical
engineering department where my task was to attempt to set up a Raspberry Pi. As this is something I had
never done before, I was up for the challenge and eager to learn new technical skills which I have no doubt
will be useful in my future career.
Over the week, I was able to speak to some of James’s colleagues, who all do different jobs at CERN. The
people I met had studied engineering (electrical, mechanical and aeronautical), physics and computer
science, and I learned about their individual experiences they had gained in getting to their current roles.
They told me about opportunities they did at the CERN summer school and the university Erasmus
programmes, which allowed them to gain new knowledge and experience they wouldn’t have been able to
get otherwise. We also spoke about the different paths people have taken on their journey from university to
CERN, and how things are done differently in other countries, which helped me realise the wide range of
options there are to increase your skill set. As aerospace engineering is something that appeals to me, I
particularly enjoyed talking to Arto Niemi, who studied aeronautical engineering in Finland, and now works in
reliability studies on the FCC.
During my stay, I visited a variety of places around CERN, including the PS Booster, the LEIR accelerator,
the CERN Control Centre and the data centre. All of these made me see the size of the different departments
behind each section of CERN, and realise how essential teamwork is to achieve a common goal.
One of the practical projects James and his team set me was to perform LED light measurements, to collect
and record data for a new system James and his colleague Alessandro designed. This made me understand
the importance of testing prototypes, in an engineering environment, and how data analysis works to benefit
Having had the opportunity to speak to a wide range of professionals from all over the world, I feel much
more confident in my choice of engineering as a degree, as it incorporates a wide range of skills that I love,
and I’ve been able to see a wide spectrum of careers applying those skills. I’ve enjoyed every minute of my
trip, and feel extremely privileged to have been given this opportunity and experience. I’m very grateful to
everyone who I met throughout my week.