An Exchange Like No Other in Germany's "City of Science"

Edward outside the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart

Edward outside the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart

Located 8065 kilometres away from Vancouver in the Rhine-Main region of Germany is the “City of Science”: Darmstadt. This small city of just over 151,000 people is known for its multitude of world-renowned science institutions and universities. This year, IsoSiM accelerator physics student Edward Thoeng got to experience the “City of Science” firsthand through an exchange at one of its acclaimed institutions, the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research.

Continuing his work with radiofrequency cavities, which are used to accelerate ion beams, Edward worked with GSI’s LINAC group on analyzing the electromagnetic interaction between cavity and ion beams.

“The topic I [was working on] there is pretty much the same as what I’m doing here at TRIUMF, only with different types of radiofrequency cavities and [a different] accelerator system,” said Edward. “The fundamental principle is the same and I got the chance to prepare myself at GSI to do a more elaborate measurement here at TRIUMF.”

GSI is a large-scale accelerator facility for heavy ions. Elements are accelerated to around 90% of the speed of light and are made use of in research ranging from nuclear, particle, and atomic physics to biophysics and medical science. GSI has several connections to institutions in Vancouver, as TRIUMF collaborates with GSI on rare isotope science and nuclear astrophysics and UBC collaborates with GSI on material science.

For Edward, working in a facility like GSI was exciting for many reasons, one being the ability to see and work with different cavities.  

“GSI is a really unique facility,” explained Edward. “I think they’re a pioneer in this, making these cavities for heavy ions … it’s cutting edge, but it’s also historic.”

The GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research

The GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research

Meeting and working with the people at GSI was also a definite highlight for Edward. Throughout his three months in Germany, he worked with a close group of people who ate lunch and discussed data together every day. Several of these people have also worked at/with TRIUMF before, and Edward appreciated the opportunities he had to learn from them and grow both professionally and academically.

“They’re very friendly and they’re willing to teach you basically everything from zero again,” he said of the people at GSI. “I got to interact with a lot of scientific staff daily and learn directly from them. We always met up during lunch time and had a coffee break and that’s mostly when we discussed the problems I encountered during my work there and how to solve them.” He highly recommends that other students completing exchanges take advantage of the opportunities they get to connect with the scientific community at different institutions.

While Edward worked hard at GSI from Monday to Friday, he had plenty of time on weekends to explore more of Germany. Some of his favourite places to visit were the smaller, scenic cities of Tübingen and Heidelberg.

“The transport system is excellent, you can conveniently travel anywhere in Germany and have a day trip during the weekends,” Edward said about travelling while completing an exchange. “I think you just have to enjoy being in Germany, because it’s a completely different system from what we have here in Vancouver.”

Edward (third from the left) and fellow IsoSiM students at the 2016 Summer School in Schmitten

Edward (third from the left) and fellow IsoSiM students at the 2016 Summer School in Schmitten

Edward’s German adventure finished with the 2016 IsoSiM/HGS-HIRe Summer School in Schmitten, which involved a tour of GSI.

“The tour was awesome … we [went] everywhere. And the summer school itself was really nice, the location was really good.” The summer school took place in Schmitten, which is nestled in the Taunus Mountains near Frankfurt. Students from around the world had the opportunity to listen to lectures about a range of isotope-related topics from scientists from different German research institutes.

From conducting and furthering his research in a large-scale accelerator facility to connecting with knowledgeable scientists and exploring Germany, Edward’s exchange with GSI in the “City of Science” was a unique, valuable opportunity.

Interested in completing an exchange with one of IsoSiM’s German partners? Curious about where other IsoSiM students are completing exchanges? See here for more information.

~Liz Montroy, IsoSiM Communications Assistant

Liz Montroy