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  • Students with Shift Leader Vasken Hagopian in the CMS Control Room. Photo credit: Marzena Lapka

  • Analysing CMS data during the Masterclass activity, with Stephanie Beauceron (at the back) and Jean Fay (in the foreground). Photo credit: Achintya Rao

  • Preparing a poster on CMS. Photo credit: Marzena Lapka

  • One of the posters produced by the young participants. Photo credit: Marzena Lapka

  • In the CMS underground service cavern with Niels Dupont. Photo credit: Achintya Rao

Part of the CMS collaboration’s commitment to the ongoing experiments at the LHC is to participate in the detector shifts which occur 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Many researchers spend time in the CMS Control Room located in Cessy, France, controlling our precious detector and making sure all goes well with it.

In fact, this activity was in the spotlight on the night of 28 September!

Many teenagers (aged 13–18) spent their Friday night exploring what life is like on shift at CMS. That evening, CERN reception was the meeting point for young students coming not only from the local area, but also from abroad (Portugal, UK, Italy and Russia), who had shortened their school week and travelled to Geneva to participate in CERN's Researchers' Night.

A first bus, full of excited kids, arrived at Point 5 around dusk. Our night visitors arrived in two slots, each of 24 students, and spent three hours on various activities together with CMS scientists and other volunteers.

The entire package included an introduction to CMS and TOTEM, a visit in the Control Room CMS (where they spent some time with the shifters), as well as tours of the CMS underground service cavern and the surface hall containing a real-size CMS poster. The almost-full moon provided wonderful ambience for a short walk to the TOTEM control room which was spent discussing the mysteries of our universe and the way detectors work to make the new discoveries possible. The three hours culminated in either an analysis of real LHC data collected by CMS (Masterclass) or a poster production.

“I could see live collisions on the monitors of CMS and interact with the physicists!” said 15-year-old Margarida Nabais, who travelled to CMS all the way from Portugal.

Many of the participants have continued to ask their questions via email, hoping to have an opportunity to come back here one day, to work at CERN.

“CERN is the main facility for particle physics, and since I am going to start my studies in physics next year, I would really love to work and study at CERN during and after my studies,” said Aaron Müller, a 17-year-old from Switzerland. He added: “Especially since the people at CERN (at least at CMS) are really crazy, just like me. And the CMS safety helmet I was allowed to take home will remind me forever of my visit.”

Giovanni Recalcati, a 17-year-old student from Italy, when asked to pick two highlights of that night, enthusiastically stated: “Only two? I found ALL [activities] extremely interesting! This was a fantastic experience from every point of view and coming to visit CERN was my dream. I’m very interested in particle physics, so I will try to return as soon as possible. We all had a lot of fun during the night, and analysing real proton collisions from the CMS detector searching for W and Z bosons was simply amazing. I will have forever beautiful memories of that day!”

Our thanks go to all involved — the shift crew and the guiding scientists — for changing their Friday night plans and making this evening so exciting for the young “shifters”.

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The volunteers for Researchers' Night 2012 included Alexandre Xabi, Stephanie Beauceron, Jean Fay, Niels Dupont, Marzena Lapka, Hugues Brun, Maxime Gouzevitch, Michael Hoch, Achintya Rao, Beatrice Bressan, Andre David, David Barney and many others operating behind the scenes.