A young graduate with a Forbes magazine award replaces human power with a computer
"This is all about the origin of the universe and the founding principles of everything around us. If I succeed, my research will have an impact on one of the most important studies in the world", says Filip proudly about his work at CERN.
If you are studying, perhaps one of your resolutions this year is to find a job in your field of study. It may take more work and sometimes you get paid less, especially at the beginning, but the experience will probably come handy over time.
This is how people comfort themselves when looking for an internship. Filip Široký, a graduate of computer science at Masaryk University, has proven in the last three years that it really pays off. After a year's internship at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), he first returned home. But then he got an offer to return to the world-famous research organization that solves the foundations of the origin of matter and particles to work full-time there. Forbes magazine has currently included him in its prestigious selection 30 under 30.
During his first stay at CERN, which ended about two years ago, Filip was on a team working to automate the control of data coming from a CMS particle detector. It detects particle collisions, which move at almost the speed of light thanks to a large hadron accelerator. Until recently, it was a matter that employed a dozen people, but now a system is being put in place to free their hands.
In his new position, Filip was given tasks in five projects, which he applies to depending on where he is most needed at the moment. The most interesting is the one concerning the Linac3 device, a source of particles for other accelerators. Filip is involved in its optimization.
"The metaphor of starting a car is useful. The linear source and the linear accelerator are applied first, which is like entering the first gear. Then the particles go to the second, third, fourth and fifth, which is the final 27-kilometer accelerator, where there are four detectors that generate data", suggests Filip.
However, the source of particles must work with all this, and that is a bit of a problem. Or rather a great scientific challenge. One person at the institute is responsible for the whole process, the German physicist Detlef Küchler. "He knows best how to set up the devices to create a strong and stable flow of particles. He understands this and has a good intuition, which is also needed, because it is plasma physics, which is very unpredictable", explains Filip.
At the same time, his words suggest that even this colleague does not succeed all the time. Often something gets stuck, so Küchler has to be available at all times. "Particles are accelerating mainly in November and December, so he can't even take a vacation and they call him at four in the morning, for example, that he has to come because he has to reset something. If he were to be hit by a car, for example, it would be a problem", Filip describes the difficult fate of a man who would appreciate a lot if there was a system that could at least partially replace him.
The necessary tools of artificial intelligence is precisely what Filip and his colleagues work on now. "It's not about inventing something to completely replace him, it's not possible right now. But we would like at least something that could make recommendations so that the scientist would not have to attend everything personally."
When working in such an organization, one easily slips into the habit of working from morning till evening. But it's not that bad. "I have quite normal working hours, I have ten hours a day in the office, for example, but not because someone forces me. I also have free weekends, "describes Filip, who travels to work in Geneva, Switzerland, but lives just behind the French border. Although he is one of the youngest, he has a lot of other young people and students around him at CERN. "It's also true here that the youngest do the most work, because the older ones have to deal with bureaucracy," he laughs.
Filip is not employed directly by the world-famous scientific organization but works for the German company Siemens, to which CERN outsources specific technical problems. Siemens is not alone. Google or IBM, for example, have similar contracts. "It is mutually beneficial. Even here, there are no experts on everything, things better understood in companies. And they like to cooperate, because they have unique equipment at their disposal, and if they manage to patent something, then it's their patent, "Filip explains how it goes.
The advantage of the system, but also of employment at CERN in general, of course, is that researchers are paid well for their time and they receive a six-digit sum every month in crowns. However, that is not the main reason to work here.
"When I was here on an internship, it was a dream come true for me, I wanted to do physics from an early age. Now this has receded a bit, now the most important thing for me here is the local vision in general and the impact of my work. It is all about the origins of the universe and the founding principles ofthings around us. If I succeed in my research here, it will have an impact on one of the most important studies in the world", says the 23-year-old computer scientist proudly.
Filip has a two-year contract with the possibility of a further extension, and now he is definitely in the mood to pursue it. In the summer he worked for a Norwegian startup, where he tried working in the private sector. Although he liked the work of monitoring the safety and greater environmental friendliness of oil tankers, the ideals of CERN are becoming more and more attractive to him.
In addition, his story is important news for those who feel it is impossible to get to such places. "It's not true. Google, Facebook, and many other large companies and organizations are still looking for young, motivated people. It's just a matter of being active and not being afraid to sign up", Filip is convinced.