by Greg Kotkowski

Tight cooperation between nodes of the AMVA4NewPhysics network is an important aspect of our work. The members of the network (especially Early Stage Researchers) are encouraged to travel between the institutions. For this reason, I’ve spent the last 5 weeks in Clermont-Ferrand (France) at the Blaise Pascal University, where I’ve worked with another ESR, Fabricio, on an algorithm for the General Search of New Physics.

An arrival to a foreign country for a longer term (in particular with a family) is not as simple as it could seem. To be honest, I had expected the time of the secondment to be rather difficult and not as comfortable as living in Padova, where I got used to. However, my pessimistic expectation turned out to be completely wrong, as the place, university, environment, and all the rest impressed me quite a lot.

Clermont-Ferrand is a very peaceful, small town that lies between old, extinct volcanos. It has a lot of green areas, which includes a fantastic park in the city centre. The university campus is a little off the city centre, but, at least according to me it has a great atmosphere that invites students to study and enjoy their life. French people also seem very kind and helpful, but unfortunately I don’t speak any French, so I didn’t make many new friends.

I’ve been working here on developing my statistical model that is meant to be used for the General Search. From my side, I tried to explain to physicists the issues considering the current development of the model while they supplied me with the their data of interest as well as with questions and expectations on the statistical model.

During the secondment, I left Clermont-Ferrand twice. The first time was for the workshop in Oviedo. The second trip was to CERN for the ATLAS Machine Learning Workshop, where in cooperation with Fabricio I gave a seminar about “Model independent searches for new physics via a parametric anomaly detection approach”, that is about our current work.

This was my first time to have a presentation in front of an important audience that I don’t know (about 25 people in the room and some online listeners). So far I’ve only had presentations during internal meetings or the network workshops. To handle the new challenge, I had to work hard to reduce my stress level and to prepare well. Additionally, it is difficult to pass a new statistical idea to the community of physicist, who are concentrated on slightly different aspects of data analysis. So, the presentation was a big deal for me.

After the presentation, I was happy with job that I had done as I could see that most of the audience had followed my talk with interest rather than looking at their laptop screens (which, as I noticed, happens quite often at CERN). I could definitely have been more explicit in explaining the methodology, but certainly I’ve learnt a good lesson. It is horrible to feel the pressure of having only a few minutes left and so many interesting things to say, isn’t it?

For now, I’m going to pack my suitcases, say farewell to Clermont-Ferrand and go back to Padova. But before that, I’ll have a walk in the city centre and try to remember as much as possible from this place. I had a good time here. Although the city has rather a bad reputation as an inaccessible location somewhere out in the boonies I think that it is definitely worth to fall into this hole.