Return from Fermilab

HCP Summer School logoA week ago Friday I returned from 10 days at Fermilab for the HCP Summer School. I had some misgivings before my departure. Being stranded in the distant outskirts of Chicago for lectures consuming 11 hour days sounded potentially very painful. To my relief it turns out the lectures were broken up with significant coffee breaks and epic lunches. In addition, the coffee break snacks were usually quite plentiful and tasty (all except the fried cheesecake squares, ick!).  Even on Saturday we had a nearly full day of lectures and discussion, but the beautiful day ended with a barbeque.  Monica arrived to spend the next day and a half with me at the barbeque and then in Chicago on our Sunday off.  In Chicago Monica and I visited the Shedd Aquarium and did some walking along the waterfront and Michigan Avenue. I took many photos and so Chicago gets its own gallery.  All the days we spent significant time outside, the two barbeques, the Sunday in Chicago, and the tours around Fermilab, all had great weather.

Oh, and the physics was very interesting. We didn’t actually have continuous lectures. Usually twice each day we met for smaller discussion sections (the group of 150 split into four groups) that were focused on answering questions. Sometimes these were very informative.  I really felt the influence of my analysis experience and the particle physics class last semester; there was almost no time when I felt totally lost, and yet I learned a lot. (They ended up getting so much interest in the school that they had to be selective and I hear having some high energy physics experience was the major criterion for acceptance.)  I think the only time when I certainly got a little lost was when were were talking with Chris Hill, the head of the theory department at Fermilab, over dinner; but still that discussion was very interesting.  Most of the lecturers were very good speakers and I expect I will refer back to their slides many times in the future.  All the lecturers were taped and are supposed to be available from the daily program in the next week or so.
Fermilab turned out to be quite a nice place, the main building is certainly impressive (much more so than anything at CERN) and the natural features are pleasant.  My one complaint, after eating lunch and dinner there for nine nearly consecutive days, is the food.  It was never as good as what you find at CERN, and sometimes pretty miserable.  A notable exception to the dinner deficiencies was the final night. I got the impression it was mostly home cooked. There was a tomato and buffalo mozzarella dish made from tomatoes grown in the user’s garden right in Fermilab (but, no word on whether the Fermilab “buffalo” (i.e. bison) were involved in the mozzarella).  Also, I ended up with a lively hoge-poe of people at my table; there was a pair of Italians, Chinese, and Bangladeshies in addition to me, the ugly American, though none of these “pairs” came together. We also came from many different experiments and the discussion in and out of physics was fun.  I observed many other tables indulging in the merrimaking of the open bar so I expect good times were had by all that night.

Leave a Comment