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RWTH Aachen Particle Physics Theory

Autumn school in Maria Laach

October 3rd, 2014 | by
The monastery of Maria Laach, foto by Andreas Künsken

(c) by Andreas Künsken

One of our PhD students, Lennart, participated at the recent autumn school for High Energy Physics in Maria Laach. This school is aimed at PHD students in theoretical and experimental high energy physics and besides particle physics, it also gives you an insight into the live in a monastery…

Attending the late summer school in Maria Laach 2014
by Lennart

In the first two weeks of September I attended a summer school about high energy physics at a very special place. The school took place in the monastery Maria Laach as in the past 46 years (with only a few exceptions due to a renovation of the monastery). Our rooms were in the guest part of the monastery. Therefore, we were as close as you can get to live in a monastery if you are not a monk. At every meal some male participants had even the opportunity to go to the inner part of the monastery and join the monks for eating. This was an interesting experience because the monks eat their meals in silence while one of them reads a book to the others. In the two weeks where we were there the book was about the incidents which led to the first world war. At several occasions we had the chance to talk to some monks about the life in a monastery and their faith. I was surprised how open and interested they are in science. Especially how clear and open they expressed their opinion about people who deny scientific theories in particular Darwin’s theory of evolution.
But the purpose of this school is obviously not to learn about the life a monastery. Therefore, we had a rich physics program which actually kept us busy the whole day. The summer school is meant for advanced master students and young PhD students. Hence, we had review lectures about important topics in high energy physics including topics like Standard Model physics, Beyond the Standard Model physics and many more. You can find a full list at the website of the school. Besides the very special place there is another specialty in Maria Laach. All lectures and talks are in German what I liked because I almost never hear or give talks about high energy physics in my native language. But luckily we did not only listen to lectures. In the afternoon we had exercise classes where some technical topics were discussed in smaller groups in more detail and we could do little exercises to deepen our understanding. This year we could choose from two topics “Feynman Diagrams for Pedestrians” which was meant for experimentalists and “Radiative Corrections and Renormalization” which I attended. The last but very important part were the talks all participants gave about their thesis. We could practice to give scientific talks without any pressure because only other students and two post-docs who chaired the sessions listened to the talks. These sessions were very helpful because I got a good overview what other students are doing and it was especially nice to discuss with other people who are fighting with similar problems as I do. To summarize I have to say that I really enjoyed my two weeks in Maria Laach at this very well organized summer school because I learned a lot and met really nice people.
I would recommend to any young PhD student who speaks German to go to the summer school in Maria Laach! (Two final remarks: If you are vegetarian or even vegan you should not go because you would probably starve to death and you should keep in mind that the school takes place in monastery where you have to obey a few (minor) rules.)

(Note from Lisa to the second-to-last remark: I survived the school though I am vegetarian, and
so did some others! Without losing weight 🙂 So if you are vegan or vegetarian, do not feel irritated!)

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