Albright Institute Summer Internship Blends Physics, Global Affairs for Alexandra Day '15

July 28, 2014
The European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN

An intertwined love of physics and international relations has brought Albright Institute fellow Alexandra Day ’15 to Geneva, Switzerland, this summer for an internship at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

CERN is a global destination for top international physicists and physics students. Begun in 1954, it is the home of the underground Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which ranks among the world’s most powerful and complex scientific instruments, with a circumference of 27 kilometers. Some of the world’s most exciting discoveries take place at CERN; for example, in July 2012, physicists announced they had found a new subatomic particle believed to be the Higgs-Boson particle, with tremendous implications for future research into the nature of the universe.

When your workplace specializes in discovering the nature of the universe, there’s rarely a dull moment. Day works in the International Relations office at CERN, where her responsibilities include preparing for VIP visits, participating in the Summer Student Lecture Series where she learns from top particle physicists, and creating a statistical analysis of the Summer Student Programme.

Day particularly enjoys working on the statistical analysis project. “Every summer CERN hosts about 300 students from all around the world and gives them the chance to participate in research projects alongside some of the best scientists in the world,” she explains. To analyse the program experience, she tracked records for over 830 students, designed, tested, and launched a survey for former participants, and collected and analysed her results. “I’m currently working on a report that brings together all of my findings. “I’m minoring in math and I especially love statistics, so it’s a perfect project for me.”

The internship forms the summer component of Day’s fellowship with the 2014 Madeleine Korbel Albright ’59 Institute for Global Affairs, following the Wintersession Institute. The Albright experience helped Day integrate two of her primary passions. “Since I am a physics major with a passion for global affairs, the Institute’s emphasis on interdisciplinary thinking helped me find ways to bridge the gap between my interests,” she says, adding that the institute “also encouraged me to go abroad and try new things, which has been incredibly rewarding… I’m consistently amazed by the vibrant international culture here. On a daily basis, I interact with people from Poland, Spain, Greece, Germany, Switzerland, and the UK, and that’s just on a normal day!  I’ve made friends from all over the world, and it’s wonderful to see how science can bring people together.”

The CERN experience has also helped Day as she plans for life after Commencement in 2015. “I’ve always wanted to pursue an advanced degree in high energy physics, and being around all of the amazing research at CERN has definitely confirmed that decision,” she says. “My experience here has also helped me appreciate the value of international cooperation in science and how rewarding it can be to explore new places and meet people from different backgrounds.”

Since around Commencement time, the Daily Shot has featured senior projects on a near weekly basis. As the midpoint of the summer comes and goes, the Daily Shot begins a series of stories sharing what current students are undertaking between academic years.