A physicist for two weeks
Johannes Bentzien (18) from Erfurt won a special prize in the “Jugend forscht” competition for junior scientists: an internship at the research facilities of GSI and FAIR. In September he spent two weeks on the GSI and FAIR campus getting acquainted with a variety of research areas.
Johannes, which research areas have you been able to check out so far?
During the first week I observed the experiments with super-heavy elements at SHIPTRAP and TASCA. To begin with, I received lots of information explaining how they work. After that I was allowed to help out. For example, I helped to fill the magnets with liquid nitrogen, make filaments for an experiment, start and stop a series of experiments, and do conversion work. Next, I spent a couple of days with the nuclear spectroscopy group, where I was able to measure the speed of light in an experiment. That was really something special. Right now I’m in the target laboratory, where I’m producing targets made of gold foil.
Which of your internship experiences have really taught you something?
In the nuclear spectroscopy group they only spoke English. My mentor had organized my visit this way on purpose so that I would be challenged — and that was really great! Besides, I was able to really get a sense of how the researchers do their daily work. Starting in October, I’ll be studying physics at the University of Rostock. At some point I’ll have to face the question of whether to pursue a career in industry or in research. Now I’ve already gotten to know one of these options a little bit.
What did you do in your free time?
I lived in the guest house, so I spent most of my time on the campus. Last week the summer students threw their farewell party, and I was there. It was a great party! On the weekend I went to Darmstadt and took a look around. Otherwise in the evenings I skyped with my family or watched movies.
What was the idea that won the “Jugend forscht” special prize for you?
The name of our project was “Why Does the Banana Shot Bend?” The reason why the banana shot in a soccer game bends is the Magnus effect, which is caused by the difference in pressure that results from the rotation of the ball. Together with two friends, I derived a formula for calculating the Magnus effect on spheres and cylinders. My friends, both of whom are computer scientists, wrote a simulation program, and we subsequently compared the results calculated by means of the program with experimental data.
What insights will you be taking home with you after the time you’ve spent here?
A physicist’s daily work is extremely varied. Physicist try out lots of different things, and sometimes they improvise. In addition, they did less calculation and math than I had expected — at least at first glance. Incidentally, I’ll be allowed to take a few of the gold targets that I’m making right now home with me as souvenirs!