by Sabine Hemmer

“The best years of all my life”. This is how Galileo Galilei felt about the time he spent in Padova between 1592 and 1610. In his years as a professor of mathematics at the University of Padua he not only worked on the development of the scientific method, but also wrote two of his famous works, “Sidereus Nuncius” and “Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo” (Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, published later in Florence).

You see, there is quite some scientific heritage in Padova. And this holds not only for these early beginnings, but also for later years. Bruno Rossi and his attempts to solve the cosmic ray mystery is just another example.

It is no surprise then that in 1951 Padova was one of the four founders of the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN), the Italian Institute for Nuclear Physics, created to uphold and develop the scientific tradition established during the 1930s by Enrico Fermi and his school, with their theoretical and experimental research in nuclear physics.

In the second half of the 1950s, the INFN designed and built the first Italian accelerator, the electron synchrotron developed in Frascati, where its first national laboratory was set up. During the same period, the INFN began to participate in studies conducted by CERN in Geneva aimed at constructing ever-more powerful accelerators.

Location of the INFN’s 20 units (blue) and 4 laboratories (red).

Today, the institute, which has its main headquarters at the Laboratori Nazionali di Frascati, conducts theoretical and experimental research in the fields of subnuclear, nuclear and astroparticle physics. The INFN counts about 1800 staff members, 500 young researchers (short-term contracts, PhD students, post-docs) and 3500 associated members who work in the 20 units and 4 laboratories all over Italy.

All of the INFN’s research activities are undertaken within a framework of international competition, in close collaboration with Italian universities on the basis of solid academic partnerships spanning decades.

The main building of the Physics and Astronomy Department “Galileo Galilei” of the University of Padua.

The Padova unit of the INFN is hosted in the Physics and Astronomy Department “Galileo Galilei” of the University of Padova, sharing all facilities with the department. The main department is a 3-story building with offices, seminar rooms and several laboratories. The Department also hosts the Museum of the History of Physics, which is definitely worth a visit if you ever come to Padova!

Amongst PhD students, post-docs and senior scientists, there are about 40 researchers in Padua, both from the INFN and the university, that are involved in the CMS experiment at LHC.

During the beginnings of the experiment, the Padova group strongly contributed to the construction of CMS’ muon drift chambers and the tracker. At the moment, a part of the group works on upgrades of these hardware components. Other researchers focus on the analysis of the data: studies of b-physics, dark-matter searches, di-boson and di-Higgs searches, and the search for same-sign leptons.

And, since September last year, one of the CMS members in Padua, Tommaso Dorigo, is also the coordinator of the AMVA4NewPhysics network! With him, three other CMS researchers, Paolo Checchia, Franco Simonetto and Martino Dall’Osso, joined the network. And of course, let’s not forget about Padova’s ESR, Pablo De Castro! Together they work on the development of multi-variate analysis methods for the study of non-resonant Higgs-boson pairs. 

“And Padova itself?” you might ask, “what is life in Padova like?”. Well, I have to say: “It is just great!” Since I have moved here more than five years ago I have simply fallen in love with this city. Imagine one of those typical Italian cities with its huge market places, small and curvy streets and historic buildings. There you go, this is the lovely Padua!

It is not very big with its roughly 200.000 inhabitants and the preferred means of transportation is the bike. The more than 60.000 university students that populate Padova make sure that there is always something to do, last but not least, Padova is the home of Spritz. What, you don’t know what that is?

Then come see us and we will help you find out!