First week in Antarctica: Adventures of Sam and Prof. Madsen

James, Shakelton’s Hut
Paul and Sam removing neutron monitor tubes.
Paul and Sam removing neutron monitor tubes.
Sam and Jim
Sam and Jim


Sam moved 10 tons of lead.
Sam helped move 10 tons of lead!

Happy Birthday Sam:  Sam turned 21 yesterday (which is actually tomorrow in the US?)!

We have had a couple of good days of work, and I got a rare chance Sunday to go out to Cape Royds where a friend does research on the penguin colony there.  It is the furthest colony inward, and the smallest in the area with a few thousand birds.  The other two places have ~50, 000 and more than 500,000 birds respectively.  So most of the penguins have more sense than to setup house so far from the open water.  These are the loners or those that just like the exercise I guess.  Cape Royds is also historically famous because it has Ernest Shackleton’s shack from his 1907 expedition.

Sam is working hard.  We have taken the neutron monitor down-moved 10 tons of lead!  And then dissembled the enclosures, which were quite dirty.  They needed to do a fair amount of grading outside in order to get a forklift and truck that can carry the shipping container near the CosRay building.  We are hoping to be mostly done by the end of the week but that depends on when the special forklift needed will be available.


Prof. Jim Madsen

James Roth, Erebus
James Roth, Erebus

Sam Down Under

Editor’s note: Sam Gardner, intern from summer 2014, is on his way to McMurdo Station in Antarctica. He will be blogging about his trip, stay tuned.

As we were flying we had a long layover in Sydney, Australia. This gave us a chance to take in some of the amazing sights. We even got lunch at the Oldest Pub in Sydney, and what was even more surprising is that they had the packers game playing live on the television.   After we explored Sydney we headed back to the airport in order to catch our flight to New Zealand. After what felt like endless flying finally we arrived in New Zealand. We arrived late Monday night, and finally got to sleep in an actual bed. This morning we went to the United States Antarctica program building in order to receive our cold weather gear. Things are actually beginning to sink in, as we tried on all of our gear and packed bags to be headed to Antarctica. It is amazing, and a bit frightening at the same time, but more exciting than anything else!

After we received our gear we got the chance to explore Christchurch a little bit, so we decided to take a trip down to the harbor and see some of what New Zealand had to offer, the sites of all these countries are just beautiful to see.  As the day of leaving for Antarctica comes closer the excitements builds further! Tomorrow, hopefully, we will be in McMurdo, then after getting acclimated we will start with our mission!

As we get to McMurdo I will hopefully be able to post an update!

Samuel Gardner

Lyttleton Harbour, Christchurch, New Zealand
Lyttleton Harbour, Christchurch, New Zealand

Anna’s 6th Week in Europe

Editor’s Note: Is Rami having any fun at all, or is he stuck in the lab?


I can’t believe it is already the end of July. This summer is flying by, but I guess we all know what they say… time flies when you’re having fun.


Progress has been made on the ARA station fitting and calibration. Thomas and I have incorporated a ray trace correction (as I talked about last week) successfully. On Wednesday I presented to the group about the progress we have made. Now next week we plan to test the reconstruction on some data that was taken from different locations surrounding the station with a pulser above the ice. Hopefully these results further prove we have successfully attained station coordinates.


This weekend I had my first visitors in Beglium! My cousin from Ireland and his girlfriend came to stay at our house. On Friday we went to Bruges for the morning and then traveled to Gent for a music festival that afternoon. On Saturday we traveled to Dinant and toured the city. In the evening we explored downtown Brussels. Brussels is so great in the dark with the whole city lit up. the picture below is a view from nearby the Parliament building looking down to the city. Sunday we spent the day at the Brussels Park and ate wonderful food downtown. It was so much fun sharing with people the country I call home temporarily.


Thanks for reading!


Week Five in Brussels


Week 5 has come and gone. This summer is going by way too fast. This week I started to wrap up the calibration and station fitting. I have been trying different ways to correct the timings of the hit when I input them into the reconstruction method. The reason for this is that we don’t take into account ray tracing. Ray tracing corrects  an effect on the radio pulse’s path because of the ice properties. It causes a curve in the path which would make the time from the pulse sent (either from the calibration pulses or a neutrino interaction in the ice) to the time the detector gets hit different than if it had a straight line path. Our reconstruction assumes there is a straight line path, so we have been trying to change this.


Over the weekend I traveled to DInant, Belgium. It is a lovely city south east of Brussels. I stayed at a hostel owned by a physicist and his wife that are from Michigan. Such a small world! On Saturday I did a little hiking and site seeing and on Sunday I kayaked down the river. It was a very relaxing weekend in a beautiful city. The picture above is the view from the room I stayed in at the hostel.


On monday Rami and I had the day off because it was a national holiday. We went downtown to the festivities. There was a fair and music throughout the city centre. It was cool to see the traditions of another city on a holiday. The holiday celebrates Beglium’s first king, Leopold. The royal family makes an appearance and the whole city awaits eagerly to see their royal family.


Kelsey Kolell: A Summer Away From Family


I’m Kelsey Kolell and I am currently attending UW-River Falls as a Sophomore. While here, I am double majoring in physics and math with later hopes of going off to grad school to get my Ph.D. in physics. Like many people my age, I had problems trying to decide what I want to do with my life, and while I am not one hundred percent sure what I want to do, I know that it will involve physics. I found I had a love for physics in my advanced physics class in high school. After taking the class, I knew physics was something I wanted to study more. My teacher told me about River Falls; it was where she had gone to school to get her Masters.

When talking with my advisor about what classes I should take and what would be the best path for me in my college career, he mentioned the IceCube internship for the summer. I had only heard a few things about IceCube at the time, but it seemed like a great opportunity to get research experience while as an undergrad. There was just one problem: I live four and a half hours away from River Falls. I either had the choice of staying home with my family and friends and work at my wonderful fast food job or come to River Falls to work on the IceCube project. Even though I wouldn’t be able to see my family for months at a time, I thought that working on IceCube would be a better choice for me.

For the first couple of weeks everything was way over my head. I barely knew anything about neutrinos or IceCube and I had no experience in programming. It was scary at first, being so lost. After those weeks though, things got better. I started to understand what I was doing and I learned a lot more about IceCube. In particular I learned a lot about cDOMs. I work with the color DOMs to find the direction in which they are orientated on String 14. At least that was the plan. As it turns out, we do not live in a perfect world where scripts work the first time you use them. It has taken weeks of running scripts, looking at graphs, and looking at the scripts to understand why it wasn’t working. After adjusting the scripts a little bit, we were able to get most of the fits for the cDoms. String 14 has caused me a lot of trouble, but hopefully we can fit all the cDOMs soon.

Now that I am here, I know I made the right choice. I have found ways to stay in touch with my family, so even though I live alone in the dorms, I still feel like they are there for me. But everything was worth it. I have learned things that surprise me. Every time I explain to people what I am doing this summer, I realize how much I really know. Once I was asked about IceCube and I started to talk about neutrinos and DOMs, it didn’t occur to me that people wouldn’t know what it was, because it is normal vocabulary for me. At the beginning of summer I couldn’t even pronounce DOM right but now I could inform people about them. I enjoy learning more and more every day. I look forward to the future and where my adventures in physics take me.

~Kelsey Kolell

Another Two Weeks in Europe

The third week was was a great week with lots of work and football (of course). I have been continuing work on the calibrating geometry of the ARA stations. This is a big issue for ARA because in order to be able to reconstruct neutrino energies we need to know the location of our detectors accurately. I am using a bancroft method reconstruction to reconstruct the station location based on average time the detector is hit from a calibration pulser. Then I test the new geometry with a matrix based reconstruction developed by Thomas Meures. The tricky thing is the station location AND the calibration pulser locations are unknown, so there are a lot of free parameters in the fit. A lot of progress has been made and hopefully next week we will be ready to present to the group at IIHE.
This week USA played Belgium in football. Rami and I attended the game with some PHD students at a campus bar called the Kulture Kafe. It was so much fun, and I couldn’t help but enjoy the commotion  after Belgium won even though I was of course rooting for USA.
On Friday I headed over to Ireland to visit my older cousin, Cole, who is working there for the year at Boston Scientific in Clonmel, Ireland. It was a great long weekend where we hiked and had our own little 4th of july celebration away from home. The picture below is from one of the hikes we went on.
Week 4
Week 4 brought us rain, rain, and wait for it, more rain. It was good motivation to stay at the lab and work though! I gave a presentation during the group meeting on an update on our progress with ARA calibration and geometry fitting. We have improved the reconstruction method used to find the station’s geometry a little, but Thomas and I think it can be approved a little more. Eventually we will have to decide its as improved as it can be due to errors out of our control. Another member of the ARA collaboration is attempting to fit the station’s geometry using a different method and different data, and it should be interesting once we are done to compare results with him.
We watched the World Cup finals and cheered for Argentina, but Germany won. It was a lot of fun being in Belgium for the world cup because people pay more attention to it here then back home. Also working at a lab with such an international group of people makes it a lot of fun with everyone cheering for a different country and making fun when their home country wins (or in our case loses).
This weekend Rami and I decided to go on a couple of adventures. On friday night we ventured to downtown Brussels to check out an area called Place Sainte Catherine. It is a square with a lovely church, water fountain and many seafood restaurants. It is mussel season, so all of the restaurants had mussel specials. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner at a restaurant called Les Crustaceous. Then Saturday we went to Antwerp which is a very fun city. Antwerp is my favorite city in Belgium so far. On Sunday we visited Bruges. Bruges is very beautiful but very busy! The picture below is a canal in Bruges.


Adventures in undergraduate astrophysics research


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