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 Presenting to Upward Bound

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.



Laura Lusardi: An Early Start in Astronomy


My name is Laura Lusardi and I am a full-time student at UWRF, where I will be attending as a sophomore in Fall. I am majoring in physics with the intent of continuing on into astronomy. I expressed interest in astronomy at a very young age and my interest has only piqued over the years. My physics lab professor knew that I was interested in astrophysics and contacted me suggesting that I apply for the IceCube internship this summer. I had admired the IceCube project for a number of years, as I had read about it; however, I didn’t know much of the details. I knew that River Falls had connections to the project, but I was unaware that I could even apply for internships as a freshman, believing they were exclusively for upperclassmen who had taken years of physics and programming classes. I applied anyway and was absolutely astounded to hear that I had been selected.

I heard that I would be working with five other students doing a lot of computer programming and data analysis for the IceCube project. I believe the actual description of our first week was, “an intense week of computer programming instruction and a crash course in particle astrophysics.” Needless to say, I was a little intimidated, but excited all at the same time. Naturally I was nervous to meet the other interns. I worried that I would be the youngest and the least experienced of the group, but upon meeting everyone, I found that we were all on the same page. The first week was a little clunky to begin with; the information was rather overwhelming, as I had no experience with computer programming, and everyone was extremely quiet. My initial thought was, “this is going to be a long ten weeks if this is how everyone is going to be.” I hoped that things would improve as the summer progressed and sure enough, a week away at Madison was just what this group needed.

The second week, the six of us packed up and headed down to Madison for a week-long IceCube boot camp. I was a little overwhelmed in Madison. Much of the material that was taught to us was way over my head, as I had only had one week of programming experience at the time, but regardless, I was able to pick up on a few things. It was extremely enlightening and a real privilege to hear from some of today’s greatest minds in particle astrophysics.

Having been on the project for a few weeks now, I am truly amazed at how much I have learned. The first week, I had no idea what a DOM or gcd-file was; now I find myself using these very same terms as well as IceCube lingo in everyday conversation. I can’t even begin to imagine where I’ll be by the end of the summer. I was told many times by many different people that I would hate the work, but I can honestly say that I am thoroughly enjoying it. Having met many of the IceCube collaborators and hearing all of their stories about being involved in the project, makes me want to continue to work on it. IceCube is exactly the kind of work that I hope to do in the future as an astronomer, so this has been and will continue to be an absolutely fantastic and rewarding experience for me!




Week two in Europe

Beach in Zeeland
Beach in Zeeland


Week two had hard work in store. It was the first week Rami and I began our individual projects. I began work on calibration for the ARA detector and worked on improving reconstruction techniques. I am using python and C++ for coding. I attended the analysis and operation calls. One of the ARA stations hasn’t been working, so the operations call consisted of discussing techniques to restore its data taking. I found this very interesting and learned something I hadn’t previously known about. Next week I will present what I have accomplished so far with calibrations at a local group meeting here in Brussels.
On Thursday the university we work at, VUB, had a campus wide barbecue that every lab and department attends. There was live music and fantastic food. It was an awesome experience getting to meet other students, scientists and faculty on campus.
The rest of the week in the evenings, we watched some more football with fellow colleagues in Brussels and caught up on some sleep that I lost due to jet lag that finally hit me! This weekend Rami and I accompanied some of the IceCubers from VUB that we work with to Zeeland, Netherlands. We barbecued, swam in the North Sea, biked, shopped at old fashioned Dutch markets, and personally, ended up very sunburnt. The weather was fantastic the whole weekend and it was a great opportunity to bond with our colleagues. One night we went for an evening walk and found bioluminescent plankton in the sand. Every step we took the sand seemed to light up with bright blues and greens. Later we used our friend, google, to learn what it was. A little biology never hurts a physicist!


Adventures in undergraduate astrophysics research


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