Bringing CERN to the Philippines

On 28 March at around nine in the evening, I boarded a flight bound for the Philippines at Geneva airport. I have been there many times in the past to visit my extended family but this trip was different. I was part of the organising committee for the first CERN School Philippines, an eight-day event that brought together lecturers from CERN, Taiwan, and the Philippines itself, with the goal of strengthening national, regional, and international ties in theoretical and experimental particle physics. Although I arrived to a Manila that was much hotter and more humid than Geneva, I was excited to see the venue and meet the local team that helped set up the whole school.

In 2010, CMS signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD). Since then, five Filipino students have worked in CMS under the auspices of the CERN Summer Student programme. Organising a CERN School in the Philippines was, therefore, the next logical step.

The school was held at the National Institute of Physics (NIP) at UPD close to Manila, and received some support from the Philippines Department of Science and Technology. The interest generated and the school’s turnout itself were both impressive especially since it was held during the annual summer vacation and close to a major Filipino holiday season: Easter. The school had 200 participants, including media professionals interested in learning more about CERN, the LHC, and high-energy physics. Students came from places as far away from Manila as Naga, Davao, and Iligan.

Notice the beautiful CMS banner at the top? That’s only the tip of the iceberg of the CMS involvement. In addition to myself, all lecturers from outside the Philippines were either from CMS (Albert De Roeck and Chia-Ming Kuo) or involved with CMS at some point (Emmanuel Tsesmelis). [Credit: Ordoñez, Jose Alejandro]

The four CMS(-related) speakers covered 60% of the lectures, with Emmanuel Tsesmelis discussing accelerators and related technologies; Albert De Roeck focussing on non-Higgs physics results and searches at the LHC; Chia-Ming Kuo discussing “Vgamma” analyses and explaining how the GRID works (even having to show how to run ROOT); while I covered particle detectors, data acquisition and triggering, and Higgs physics.

Albert and I also participated in a session open to the general public, attended by around 300 people. The stars of this session however were the five Filipino summer students, who shared their experiences at CERN. They all had some interesting story that got the audience clapping, and Lemuel Pelagio, the first Filipino CERN summer student and now a PhD student at NIP, emphasised the great learning environment and multiculturality present at CERN.

Clearly, there is an interest in experimental particle physics from both students and faculty in the Philippines. Hopefully this school was another step in bringing together these different people to join as a community. After all, with halo-halo as their national dessert, Filipinos would fit like a glove into the multicultural, multinational world of experimental high-energy particle physics.

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