Monday, 11 July 2016

Summer Internship at SLAC!

I can't believe I am actually saying this but I've secured a summer placement at SLAC, home to the world's largest linear particle accelerator and world's first hard x-ray free electron laser!!! My face was literally like that emoji (you know what I'm talking about, the one with the hands on his face and his mouth wide open just like that Munch painting) when I found out that this was actually happening!

So, I guess you probably have a few questions, so I've tried to summarise them below and hope they answer them. Please feel free to comment down below if you've got any questions - I'd be more than happy to answer! :) 


What will I be working on?
Well, since I am only here for 6 weeks a project can't really be complete in this time. Normally, 8-10 weeks is a better length of time for a summer project to be completed. Instead, I shall be shadowing and helping out with various experiments in the different hutches (experimental areas) of LCLS! LCLS stands for Linac Coherent Light Source, it's a basically a huge x-ray laser! Scientists use LCLS to take high resolution snaps of atomic motions, chemical reactions as they happen and also probe the properties of different materials and explore the essential processes that occur in living things.

At LCLS there are SEVEN experimental areas each with a different aim - some are looking into biological processes, others are looking into different materials and their properties and even recreating the conditions in jets from young stars on a small experimental scale - almost like a mini supernova in a vacuum chamber! You can find out more about the different experimental areas here

One of the coolest things that I've just discovered is that you can view the machine status of LCLS online and it's updated every 5 minutes! So you can see things like the beam profile or photon energies in each of the experimental areas - HOW COOL?! Check it out here.

So, by the end of my placement I hope to have met many inspirational scientists, developed various laboratory skills and learnt a tonne of new physics! I cannot wait for the next few weeks to unfold and I'll make sure to keep blogging so I can keep you guys up to date!

If you'd like to see more of what I do on a daily basis then I'd suggest you follow me on my various social media:

Twitter: @MBerboucha
Instagram: @meriameberboucha
Snapchat: @mberboucha

Wearing my laser lab gear for the new laser being built at LCLS! I look like a teletubby! :P The laser lab coat and headpiece is there to make sure no dust/dirt from your clothes, hair, ..etc can get into the room which is terrible because if the laser goes through all the optics and there's dust any of them this can totally burn/damage the optics! So, safety first!

My main area of work will be focused on working on LCLS II, the upgrade of LCLS - check out this AWESOME promo video of LCLS II here - it gives you all the drama that I can't give you here. It's an EPIC upgrade and I can't wait to be a part of it! They hope to increase the repetition rate of the pulsed laser so that it can fire at one million times a second!!!!!!

More about my work will come in future blog posts.

What is it like to work at SLAC ?
I will touch on this in future posts too but for now I'd just like to say that SLAC has it's own volleyball court. Period. That's all I need to say.

... Hahahaha! Just kidding, but that does set the scene for what it's like at SLAC. SLAC has incredible views of mountains, clear blue skies and lots of flora! It's just beautiful - there's not one bit where I've looked and not been like 'woooooowwwww!' 

My first impression of SLAC was that it was HUGE! To get from one building to another for meetings or lab work requires either a car or bike - walking is possible but it could take you half an hour or so to get from one building to another! That's how big SLAC is! 

The buildings here are well furnished and have a very modern feel to them. Everything here looks like it's meant to be in a magazine or catalogue - it's just picture perfect! The scientists there are super friendly and very knowledgable. SLAC has it's own gym with outdoor football pitch, indoor basketball court, volleyball court, outdoor ping pong table and a place outside for yoga and pilates. And because it hardly rains here you can play those outdoor sports all year round - just sounds like heaven to me!

Science and User Support Building (SUSB)

Volleyball court with mountain views


View from my office window at LCLS! #PicturePerfect

SLAC Selfie!

LCLS Far Experimental Hall

Football court just a minutes walk from LCLS


Outside SUSB

What is living in California like in comparison to London?
I've only been here a week or so and already I am loving the Californian lifestyle! Here, in Palo Alto where I am living in the Stanford West Apartments the weather is perfect everyday and I wake up to the sound of birds, the lovely warm sunshine and a cool breeze! The temperature never really gets higher than 30 degrees Celsius so the weather is just perfection! I couldn't be in a more picturesque place either! The place is decorated with lovely trees and greenery and the most beautiful flowers!

London, on the other hand is full of big city buildings, it's got this buzz of busy people but here in California everything feels so chilled and relaxed and people just say hi and have a chat with you whilst you're walking down the street. It's such a lovely, chilled atmosphere, even though I'm working it feels like I'm constantly on holiday because the sun is always out!

Another thing I noticed was that public transport here is nothing like that in London. In London buses come every ten minutes or so, here in California buses come every half an hour and only operate at certain times - so if you miss a bus (I have done so many times this week!) then you have to wait at the bus stop for half an hour! In London that would make me grumpy but here in sunny California I really don't mind waiting in the sun, with my shades on enjoying the lovely palm trees that decorate the area. :) Also, trains here are double decker - yes, they have two floors! :O And they come every hour or so.

Carmel, California 
Carmel, California

Rocky Creek Bridge

Rocky Creek Bridge

Carmel, California

Carmel, California

Carmel, California

Carmel, California

Carmel, California

Carmel, California

Just a spot of rock climbing at Gibson Beach ;)

A tide pool!

Carmel, California

Point Lobos, Carmel, California

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