Summer Research Experiences: Cosmology School in France

On September 18, 2013 by Grad Forum
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Jannis Bielefeld, Professor Robert Caldwell, and Damian Sowinski in Les Houches, France.

As the fall term gets underway, Jannis Bielefeld and Damian Sowinski take a moment to reflect on their experiences over the summer at Cosmology School in France.

Jannis Bielefeld and Damian Sowinski are PhD students in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. They work in cosmology—the branch of physics that describes the universe as a whole. Terms such as the “big bang” and “dark energy,” which have gained popularity in a wider cultural context, stem from work in this area of theoretical physics.

The 100th Cosmology School at the École de physique des Houches took place over the summer in Les Houches, France. This specialized school teaches a wide spectrum of research in cosmology. While the initial mission statement—teaching French students modern physics—has expanded, the original method of inviting young researchers together with renowned professors to a remote location still serves to inspire a new generation of researchers. “Getting together with other physicists in this idyllic village helped me find new research directions and solidified my knowledge,” Bielefeld remarks.

Most importantly the school gives scholars a chance to connect with the community. The networking opportunity of workshops at the school is a valuable resource. Senior researchers spot talent at workshops, and new collaborations are formed. Being able to present their work allows students to receive valuable feedback from peers. “Seeing how other students in the same field view the topic helped me in understanding ambiguities in my research. Moreover, I had the opportunity to get to know possible future collaborators!” Sowinski observes. Bielefeld also commented, “Presenting at Houches has saved me at least one month of research, since I got valuable input from students working in the same field.”

Another advantage of a long summer school is the possibility to get to know professors personally. The vast trails in the mountainous area offer an ideal space to connect with colleagues. This environment facilitates the discussion of a diversity of topics and fosters strong relationships in the group.

Both Sowinski and Bielefeld returned to Dartmouth with new research directions that they will be able to incorporate into their PhD work.

by Jannis Bielefeld

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