CERN openlab summer student 2017

CERN openlab summer student 2017

I was lucky enough to have been selected among more than 1500 applications to be a summer student in the CERN openlab programme.
This was a unique experience where I got to work on an exciting project and met some of the world’s most interesting and smart people, while working in the amazing city of Geneva, Switzerland.

My project

Project repository:

During my internship I worked in the webcast team developing a Video editing and encoding application based on the FFmpeg codec library.
The application was aimed at speeding up the processing and editing  of CERN’s virtual visits videos of various experiments, such as CMS and ATLAS.

Some of the technologies that I used to develop this applications are:

  • Python & Flask
  • FFmpeg library
  • EOS network FS
  • Openshift

Typical day at CERN openlab

Even though most days started in the same way, the outcome of each day was totally unpredictable. In the weekdays we would cycle to work, with bikes rented from CERN free of charge. Sometimes we were in groups of 4, but sometimes we would have bigger groups made of 7 to 10 people. Saint Genis is a small town with small roads and nerds on aren’t famous for their biking skills, so you can immagine the chaos that the poor people of Saint Genis had to face every morning. (there were some accidents, luckily not too serious)

When entering cern we would have to show our badges to the gate guard, which when riding a bike is not that easy. In fact I once dropped my bike on the guard’s leg while trying to find my access badge. (Luckily he didn’t kill me, but he did give me an evil look every morning after that day).
Most of us would arrive at the CERN campus at around 8:30AM, we would then proceed to have our daily morning “meeting”. During these meetings we would ponder about science and the meaning of life and ask questions like: Which cake shall I consume with my coffee? How much sugar is too much sugar for one coffee?

After our breakfast, each one of us would go to our offices and supervisors and work until lunch.  The working environment, at least in my experience, was very relaxed and friendly. Each morning I would meet with my supervisor and discuss my progress and future work. Whenever I got stuck somewhere there was always someone ready to help me, which definitely helped me finish my project on time.

Lunch was very good, and an occasion to chat with other openlab students. We would meet at the same spot in the caffetteria every day and talk about random things.

Amazing people

There are so many incredible aspects about working at CERN, but one of the ones that I must mention is the people. Every single person that I met during my short 2 month stay at CERN was full of enthusiasm, incredibly smart and always available to help. I have met so many interesting people and made long lasting friendships form all over the world. I was very lucky to have made a group of strong friendships with whom I still keep in contact to this day.

Travel in Switzerland

As I was staying in the amazing Switzerland, it would be a real shame not to explore as much as I can. I am really into photography, so I took is as an occasion to take pictures of beautiful landscapes cool mountains. Every weekend me and other Openlab students would visit a different city. As you already probably know, Switzerland is a very expensive place, so we were always looking to save money. We found that the cheapest way to get around and visit Switzerland was by renting a car for the day. Dividing the cost of renting a car between 5 people would nearly always beat the bus or train prices. The car also allowed us the freedom to visit the countryside and mountains, that would otherwise be hard to reach with public transport. The only negative thing about using  car was the travel time. As no one really wanted to drive for more than a couple of hours, we never left the west side of Switzerland / east of France. Fortunately there are a so many cool places to visit in this area that it didn’t really matter too much. We visited places like: Bern, Lausanne, Montreux, Zurich, Interlaken, Gruyères,  Chamonix  and Annecy. All of these places are equally beautiful, so we had plenty to visit.