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From Funen to the frontline of physics: Mechatronics engineer landed dream job at CERN

26-year-old Jonas Kampp works as a mechatronics engineer for the world's largest physics laboratory, CERN in Switzerland.

By Sune Holst, , 1/1/0001

"I got interested in mechanics and engineering when I was a little boy building soapbox cars from wood, old prams and bicycle parts in my dad's barn."

This is the story of Jonas Kampp, who grew up on a farm in Tved on Funen, where his interest in mechanics and technology was strengthened by the daily use of tractors and large agricultural machinery.

We take a quantum leap to today. Literally, you want to write. Today, the young Fyn resident is a mechatronics engineer for the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), which is the world's largest physics laboratory and works extensively with particle physics. CERN is where physicists explore what matter is made of and the forces that hold it together. 14,000 physicists worldwide are associated with CERN.

CERN includes The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world's largest particle accelerator. The accelerator is located in an 27 kilometre long underground ring under the Jura Mountains and crosses the border between Switzerland and France. The LHC can accelerate particles to enormous speeds and energies and then collide the particles. What happens to the particles is studied in CERN's particle detectors.

"It's hugely fascinating to be a part of. It is one of the world's largest nuclear research facilities where, by accelerating particles up to 99.9999996 per cent of the speed of light and colliding them together, we can learn about the smallest building blocks of nature and understand how the universe is constructed and put together."

Important part of the engineering staff
Jonas Kampp's job includes adjusting the experimental setups in the 200 metre straight sections on either side of the 4 experiments that are part of the 27 kilometre long particle accelerator where the particles collide. His department is called 'High Precision Alignment' and consists - in addition to engineers - of surveyors.

"We are developing technology, such as sensor systems and actuators, to adjust the highly critical straight sections of the 27-kilometre ring. Components weighing between 10 and 20 tonnes need to be adjusted with a precision down to a few micrometres. It's quite a complicated set-up," laughs Jonas Kampp.

The particle accelerator needs to be upgraded
Since 2013, CERN has been working on an upgrade of the LHC particle accelerator. The aim is to increase the number of collisions in the LHC, thereby realising the full potential of the accelerator. The upgrade is called HL-LHC (High Luminosity LHC).

"This is my primary area of work. We increase the amount of energy that is added to the particle accelerator while increasing precision. There's a vain hope that what we are helping to build will be used by scientists who hopefully make a huge new discovery, so that you have a tiny part of something that will go down in history.

The HL-LHC is expected to deliver 10 times more data than the original design of the LHC - several terabytes per second.

Internship opened the door to dream job
The road to CERN went via Sønderborg, where Jonas Kampp studied mechatronics at the local SDU campus. In his sixth semester, he applied for an internship at the research facility in the Swiss city of Geneva and was accepted.

"I highly recommend applying for an internship at CERN. Geneva is a cool city with an international environment, where the UN is also based, among other things. There are people from all over the world. The Alps are close by, so you can quickly head out hiking or skiing."

Denmark's membership guarantees a certain number of internships
Danish participation in CERN not only allows Danish physicists to join the elite of high-energy physics and provides Danish companies and engineers with the laboratory. Danish students can also take advantage of CERN's programmes for summer schools, PhD students, postdocs and internships.

"It's a great opportunity that offers unique experiences. I got the opportunity to develop and test things that aren't used elsewhere. Financially, it's also attractive. The programme is based on a scholarship that comes on top of your study grant, so there is also financial leeway to experience Switzerland."

Jonas Kampp also points out that CERN not only has a Danish researcher leading the lab's Danish internship programme, but also has its own hostels and housing portal so that interns from all over the world can be accommodated together.

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You can read more about career opportunities at CERN here:

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