By Amy Zingsheim, UWRF undergraduate in Physics who spent the summer with IceCube collaborators in Aachen, Germany
Aachen, Germany Summer 2019
The start of my summer adventures began the moment I stepped into the Minneapolis St. Paul Airport. For some, the idea of traveling via airplane is as natural as shopping for groceries. However, for a person who had never been more than 500 miles from home, everything about airplane travel was completely foreign. I made sure to arrive plenty early to the airport and successfully boarded my first of three flights for the trip. It was while sitting on my second flight for an hour delay before taking off due to bad weather that I realized that the time schedule of airplane travel is highly variable and a 50 minute transfer time is probably never a good idea. My suspicions were confirmed when I missed my third flight, but luckily there was another one just 2 hours later. When I got off my last flight, I was not very confident that my luggage had made it through with me, so when it didn’t show up on the belt, I was not too surprised. I talked to the helpful people at the lost baggage place and gave them the address for where I would be staying for the next 8 weeks (it was successfully delivered just one day later).
Then it was time for me to figure out train travel in Europe. I went up to this sky train place that the people from the lost baggage place said was where I should go to find a train. There was this confusing ticket machine and I ended up having to use my intermediate Spanish knowledge to ask this lady for help. Turns out I had to ride the sky train to the actual train station where I could then get a ticket to Aachen. I got to the train station and acquired a ticket for a train that was leaving in four minutes. I found the right platform and was able to hop on the correct train, although I was not convinced that it was the correct train until I actually arrived in Aachen. I have come to know that a train line name will display the last stop in the line, so I should have been confident I was on the correct train all along since Aachen Hbf was the name on the line.
After successfully arriving in Aachen and checking into my boarding house, I took a short nap before going on a brief tour of the city. By 8pm, I began to feel a little dizzy, so I went to bed and before long it was morning. Besides the dizziness the night before, I didn’t feel any effects from my long trip, so, map in had with a route drawn in pencil, I set out towards the physics buildings of RWTH Aachen University. Now, google maps said it would take me 50 minutes to walk there, but what google maps didn’t account for was the inability of people like me to successfully transfer the paper world into the real one. Long story short, it took me an hour and a half to reach the University the first two days (hey, there were a lot of possible wrong tuns).
That first week, I was introduced to the active base (see featured photo) that I would be running tests with and analyzing data from (the active base is connected to a PMT and waveforms can be produced to see PMT signals). I learned how to solder and only partially accidentally melted one plastic thing. My fellow office mates were friendly enough and would switch over to speaking English whenever they had something to say to me.
I started taking measurements with the active base and outlined what I hoped to learn from doing different analyses on the waveforms. On the list was transit time, charge distribution, noise, and pulse amplitude.
My first weekend trip was to a destination I had thought about ever since my father told me about it when I was a little kid. Located in the mountains of the Eifel region sits a town of around 850 inhabitants (according to Wikipedia). ‘What is so special about this town?’ you may ask. Well, it is the town of Zingsheim, which is my last name. It took about 2.5 hours to get there by car and I was not expecting to find anything spectacular in this small town. However, it just so happened that a car show was going on with old cars, tractors, trucks, and a marching band. It was an enjoyable event to experience and the hamburger I ate from the local Zingsheim fire department was splendid. On that trip, I also stopped by a castle and the radio telescope in Effelsberg.
I worked on doing transit time, pulse amplitude and charge distribution analysis. My next weekend trip was to the city of Cologne (apparently the city name is Köln in German).
I decided to take a bus because that was cheaper than a train, but I didn’t look up where the bus took me in Köln. Turns out the bus took me to the airport, which was in no way close to the city center where I wanted to be. I was still new to this whole traveling thing, so instead of taking a city bus to the city, I decided to walk as far as I could in 3 hours and then turn back. To no surprise, I did not reach the city, but I did see a nice horse farm (but that was about it). I went back a few weeks later via train and had a nice look at the Cathedral and other pretty buildings along the Rhine.
I started investigating a repetitive signal I was seeing in the noise of multiple waveforms from the active base. After some persuasion from the Germans, I decided to visit Paris next. I took a high speed train directly to Paris, which only took about 3 hours. My main goal of the trip was to see the Eiffel tower, so after acquiring a city map from the tourist info booth, I set out on foot in what I thought was the right direction.
I had become better at navigating from a map, so I didn’t get too lost; once I found Seine river, it was pretty easy from there. All told, it took about 2.5 hours to walk from the train station to the Eiffel tower. There were a lot of people around the tower, so I only stayed for a little bit before heading back.
I presented my noise investigation results on a hardware call and it turns out one other group had also been seeing the same thing in the noise. My next travel destination was Brussels. The main attraction for me was to see the Atomium, which I accomplished, including going inside. I also went to the city square and ate some delicious waffles.
At the end of my 8th week, I had to move out of my boarding house because they had already been booked full for my last two weeks in Aachen when I had contacted them. I found a nice Airbnb that was home to two cats to stay at for the last two weeks, so I moved in just fine and had to plot a slightly modified route to the university. I also found out that the Germans named a street after me: Amyastraße (straße means street), which was the street right next to my new quarters.
This week, I have been digging deeper into my transit time analysis while waiting to get a second look at the charge distribution from a different analysis method someone else is doing. I am not planning any more weekend trips, but I will go to Düsseldorf a day before my flight leaves to explore a bit.
Living here in Aachen and traveling around Europe for the past 8 weeks has opened my eyes to life outside the USA. It has been a wonderful experience, but I am looking forward to the comforts of home again soon.