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Amy in Aachen, Summer 2019

By Amy Zingsheim, UWRF undergraduate in Physics who spent the summer with IceCube collaborators in Aachen, Germany

Aachen, Germany Summer 2019

Week 1:

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.


Week 2:

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.

Weeks 3-4:

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.

Week 5-6:

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.

Weeks 7-8:

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.

Week 9:

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.


By Jack Nuclkes: UW-Madison Undergraduate who is on an IRES Neutrino Astrophysics Internship in Sweden in Summer 2016.

We left Stockholm at 7:00 a.m. on a Friday morning, each toting a backpack stuffed with, among other necessities, water, bread, peanut butter, canned tuna, and fresh socks. During the next 24 hours, four trains carried us to Switzerland. We sped through the Swedish countryside to Malmö where we hopped on a commuter train to Copenhagen. To reach the European mainland, the next train rolled onto a ferry and we cruised across the Baltic before continuing on to Hamburg, where our steady southward progress was interrupted by an agonizing three hour wait for the night train to Basel. At precisely the minute it was scheduled to leave, a faded, rusty, tin can of a train screeched to a halt at the platform where we were waiting.


We spent the next ten hours in a blurry purgatory, half-sleeping at best between the screams of toddlers and the strange lights that flashed through the window of our compartment. However, the next morning, as we ate our breakfast on a bench in an empty Basel train station, we unanimously agreed that the journey was worth it. We were in Switzerland.


Two more quick trains took us to Lauterbrunnen, a small farm village in an alpine valley that felt quintessentially Swiss. Surrounded by cliffs, waterfalls, and with views of snowy peaks, we wandered around and enjoyed the scenery. Church bells filled the air intermittently as cows grazed in the fields and wispy clouds floated along the clifftops. In the afternoon, we headed north to Bern, the Swiss federal city. We strolled through the flag-lined streets, snapped photos of the turquoise Aare River, and admired the statues and architecture. As the sun began to set, we returned to the train station to begin our journey back to Scandinavia.

To get home we repeated our trip from Stockholm to Basel in reverse. Feeling the effects of having not showered three days, we sat tiredly and watched the scenery out the window of the trains slowly change from the farm fields of Germany to the windmills of Denmark and finally to the rocky soil and pine trees of Sweden. At close to midnight on Sunday, we reached our apartment, feeling grateful to be home but even more-so, glad to have been to three new countries and the Swiss Alps.

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!




Anna and Rami in Brussels

Ann and Rami in Belgium
Ann and Rami in Belgium

Editor’s Note: Anna Christenson (UW-Madison) and Rami Jubara (Normandale College) spent last summer as IceCube interns. This summer they are interning with the IceCube group in Brussels, Belgium. 


The first week is over! Rami and I arrived at 9 AM  Sunday June 16th in the Brussels national airport, and had to wait for Professor Kael Hanson who’s plane arrived at 1:00 PM. Kael and his wife drove us to our apartment, which is a very nice apartment! We explored the area around our apartment which is VUB and ULB campus and some shops.
Bootcamp started Monday and they worked us to the bone, …  just kidding! Bootcamp was fantastic and the speakers were all very helpful and we learned a lot about IceCube! On Tuesday night we went with some of the visiting PHD students to watch the Belgium football game at pub near our apartment. The streets were full of crazy fans after they won which was a lot of fun to see. On Wednesday we had a bootcamp dinner at a wonderful restaurant called Cafe de Epices.
On Friday the bootcamp was wrapped up and instead of attending the last two hours, I met with a PHD student, Thomas Meures, who will be the person I report to daily. I will be working on the experiment Askaryan Radio Array. We discussed what I will work on for the first few weeks. The plan is to work on a calibration method Thomas has developed and later work on improving a reconstruction method. Friday night, we went and explored the downtown area in Brussels (which is where the picture below is from).
On Sunday, Rami and I explored the beautiful city of Ghent. It was an hour train ride there. Ghent has been my favorite thing I have seen so far.


First Post, Summer 2014 Students

We are the 2014 UWRF Summer IceCube interns. We are a diverse group of six students: three of whom attend UWRF(Laura, Kelsey, Nick)  during the regular school year, two from southern Wisconsin(Kyle from Norteast Wisconsin Technical College and Sam from UW-Waukesha) and one student joining us from Brazil (Thamyres).

We began working together three weeks ago on June 2nd.  Since then, we have worked our way through a variety of different materials and learned quite a lot in a rather brief period of time. Our first week consisted of a lot of computer programming, as the majority of our group has had little to no experience in that area. Not only were we programming, but we were also learning the details of the IceCube project and the very basics of particle astrophysics. During our second week, the six of us drove down to Madison for the week-long 2014 Summer Boot Camp, where we had a rigorous week full of programming, lectures, and instruction. There, we had the opportunity to meet IceCube collaborators and graduate students from all around the world. It was very humbling to work amongst some of today’s best minds in particle astrophysics. The content was a little overwhelming for our group, given that we had only been on the project for just one week, but everyone was very knowledgeable and willing to help us get our bearings.

Not all of the time was dedicated to intense instruction, however. When we weren’t holed up in the IceCube building, we were all out on the Capitol square for lunch, talking with each other and enjoying the sunshine, as well as all of the wonderful food options that the Capitol had to offer. Each day, once we all had our 8 hours of information overload, our group was out discovering all of the wonders of Madison. We walked along State Street, explored the trails around campus, and visited the student terrace along the shore of the lake. On the terrace there was homemade ice cream, live music, and movies depending on the night. These opportunities allowed us plenty of time to talk and get to know each other. By the end of the week, we had become much more comfortable around one another to the point where we were no longer afraid to ask questions or even to tease each other, resulting in a more relaxed and enjoyable working environment back home in River Falls.

This past week, we were all separated into our own individual projects where we were to put the skills that we had learned in Madison to good use. It’s been a trying week for all of us, as many of the things wouldn’t work, but everyone has been pushing through without giving up. Even though we have only been working on the project for a few weeks, we have gotten to the point where we are beginning to figure out what we need to change to make things work. This has been a fantastic learning experience for all of us thus far and we can’t wait to see where the rest of the summer takes us!

– All of us