The Big Picture
Jack worked for the Canadian particle accelerator centre TRIUMF from July 2017 to June 2018 with his main focus being particle simulation and geometry creation using FLUKA software, where he gained a very in depth understanding of nuclear physics.
“I was working on essentially particle simulation, nuclear physics, which was a bit of a step away from astrophysics, which is my specialization.”
The Learning Curve
Jack was familiar with Python from his university courses, but had to learn how to use Fortran while doing his Year in Industry.
“So I was coding originally in Python to get output data from this program called FLUKA, which was all in Fortran. And then later on when I had finished this program, we looked more at the simulations for what we wanted to do. And to do that we had to go in and manually edit some of the scripts in Fortran for FLUKA. And I still don’t know anything about Fortran at this point.”
The Python script that Jack wrote is still in use by TRIUMF and it can be applied to any sort of particle simulation they do so long as it runs on FLUKA.
“The Python script that I wrote to output or get their data from the particle simulator, I like to think they still use it because it was … Don’t mean to toot my own horn, it was pretty good. And I did a lot more than they asked me to, and it was very easy and useful. And it turned a three or four hour data output into a five minute data output with no chance of messing up.”
The Physics Connection
Prior to his Year in Industry, Jack had done some coding in an internship at Chelsea Technology Group, using Python to code underwater sensors, which gave him more experience than the coding skills that he had learned at university.
The Professional Skills Stuff
Jack has always been a good public speaker so the few presentations that he had to do were not a problem for him, and his supervisor was always there to help.
“We had a meeting (twice a week) to recap what we’ve done during the last day or two … And so I’d say the main thing I learned was how to talk about what I’ve done in both a concise manner if I’ve done a lot, or blag it a little bit if I haven’t done very much.”
TRIUMF is Canada’s national particle accelerator centre. It is considered Canada’s premier physics laboratory, and is consistently regarded as one of the leading subatomic physics research centers on the international level.
“It was very open. It was very free. When I arrived, like I said, they didn’t really know what to do with me. And we had a couple of meetings about what I wanted to do, and so I tried to choose something that interested me and would work for them as well. And so it was, I think I could have definitely gone down a different path had I had stronger feelings and more knowledge about what I wanted to do.”
The Final Word…
Jack found his experience eye opening to how people actually work in an industrial environment, a big change from the type of work he saw at university in lecture halls and labs, so this was a valuable look into the working life of someone in the physics industry.
“And putting it on my CV, I think was for sure the reason I’ve gotten these PhD offers and I am where I am now. So even if I hated it, it would’ve been worthwhile.”
…AND THE NEXT STEP
Jack is now pursuing a PhD in Stockholm, Sweden and says that having his year at TRIUMF on his CV was very beneficial when applying for PhD positions as it made his application stand out.