October 06, 2012

My Researcher Profile: Finishing

What have you enjoyed about your URSS project?

I definitely enjoyed many aspects of the URSS project but what comes to me as the first point is definitely that I have seen difference between being passive and being active in terms knowledge. It is very different to sit in the lectures learning the material and try to research yourself. This project had enabled me to try to work independently and try to figure out concepts that have not yet been looked at. This was definitely something I have not yet encountered before.

Secondly, I enjoyed also the sense of cooperation that people in my office shared. Despite the fact that most of the time the PhD and PostDoc students were occupied, or had only few weeks left for their dissertations they represented one team and they helped each other and me without any hesitation.

My supervisor was very good as well. He was online practically any time and feedback on my work was therefore very quick. I enjoyed it because my progress was much quicker than it would be if I did not have such an immediate response. He also tried to include me whenever there was meeting with other people working in the research group and there were skype meetings with CERN and Fermilab. I saw how people talk about their work and I could have presented my own to see whether there are any comments in order to improve and move further.

What have you found difficult?

Sometimes I have found that when I ran out of ideas on how to solve the problem, I could not see any "way out". I was doing my best to achieve some goals but sometimes I felt I cannot solve the problem. Obviously, there were always ways how to solve it so a little push from somebody helped me to figure out new way to approach the problem.

Also I found that time was very precious. I realized that even though I had plans to do some tasks throughout the day I was not able to manage sometimes. That had affected also my priorities in project and I have seen that despite the fact that I had done planning I had to adjust myself because I have encountered various problematic situations.

How do you feel that completing a project has/can help you?

1. In my studies: I have learnt a lot about 2 programming languages: Python and C++. They will be helpful with my programming modules.

I also learnt a lot about Particle Physics and The Standard Model which should definitely help me when I take on particle physics modules.

Use of Statistics especially Chi square Method and Maximum Likelihood method also can help when I take statistics modules.

2. I have learnt how to use Root platform which is a main platform for particle physicists which is always a handy knowledge. Also it helped me to see what exactly I liked about this project and see what exactly I would like to do in postgraduate study.

3. This precious experience had a lot of applications even if I decide that I am not going to complete any postgraduate study. Working in a team, thinking independently and numerical skills would pay of.

How did you find out about the URSS scheme?

My friend was very interested about doing research during the summer and so was I. I always wanted to know how particle physcis research actually work. So together we found out that physics department and some stafff were happy to take on students during the summer and this will be done in cooperation with URSS. There was an information evening with students who had done it and I really liked the idea, that is also where I found my supervisor.

What are your 3 top tips for URSS students about to start work on their research projects?

1. Make a plan - if you slip behind the schedule, do not panic though!

2. Ask questions when you get stuck - there is no point in trying to solve everything yourself if that would cost you a lot of precious time.

3. Be positive - nobody expects you to produce new equations of relativity so there is no point in trying to get worked up everytime something does not work.

What's next for you?

Firstly I would like to finish my undergraduate degree. Then I definitely would like to try to continue postgraduate studies in order to strenghten my independent learning and also to learn much more about the topic and problematics of Particle Physics.

How would you sum up your URSS experience in one sentence?

URSS project enabled me to open the door to research that I have dreamt the most about

Recommendations for the URSS

September 29, 2012

Final Reflective Blog

What were your key objectives for completing the URSS and have they been met?

Two key goals were to learn to program in Python and to learn how to draw conclusions from given information. Both of these objectives were met up to the certain point. What concerns programming I learnt mostly what was necessary for the completion of the project, for instance, small assignements that have been given to me like programming functions. Obviously there is numerous amount of resources and programming levels one can reach and therefore I can say that I manged to master some parts but there is still room for improvement but for the purposes of the project they are suffficient.

Secondly I was interested in learning how to extract information where there are data given. This is a harder task because it entails learning and studying a lot of scientific material and background knowledge in order to see into the problem. Since my problem was very specific, a lot of information was passed on me by my supervisor who is an expert in this field and I learnt a lot from him. Sometimes I was able to obtain the information using various online resources, but only after I set up my accounts in order to access them. There were instances when I did find useful information at first glance, but it did not help at all in a longer run. I realized that sometimes I arrived to conclusions too quickly without examining them properly and all of this has taken up the time. But I think I understood that principle of extracting information and drawing conclusion is a process full of misses and only few hits. That means, that one has to do a lot of side work before arriving to a good finish but when one does he/she feels that one has looked at the problem from many different angles to support his/her conclusion. At the beginning I thought that drawing coclusions was more deterministic, either it is right or it is wrong.

What skills have you gained by completing the URSS project that you will utilise in your studies or other aspects of your working life?

I feel like I have gained a lot of skills on the way especially:

1. Programming skills:

- Python - main programming language, I did small programs that did calculations for me

- C++ - a lot of functions were programmed in this language

- Root - a platform that combined commands from Python and C++ specific to CERN

- LaTex - my report was written in this format

2. Particle physics knowledge

I got to look at decays which are very interesting, they belong to B physics and hence they are quite rare (at least comparing to some other hadronic decays). I learnt some background information about B baryons and B mesons and their decay modes and other properties.

3. Mathematical skills

Ihave discovered a whole new range of functions and their properties which I used for fitting graphs, for instance, Crystal Ball function, Smeared exponential function, tripple Gaussian function. They all play a distinctive role and have implications for the type of data you are working with. Also some knowledge of statistical methods have been revealed to me such as Maximum likelyhood method or Chi squared method which is always useful in determining accuracy for the graph.

What will you do differently as a result of your URSS experience?

I think I will definitely have a different view on how actually the results in particle physics came about. So when there is lecture I will know that the statements are very well examined and they underwent a very specific route before they were obtained. I will probably try to find out more about their origin.

I think also that I will definitely use more the terminal screen on computer because I realized that the computers can do much more than one usually uses them for. Also what concerns programming abilities I will definitely try to use them in order to do some of my assignemets to check my solutions, if they are numerically solvable.

Have there been any unexpected outcomes of taking part in the URSS?

When at the beginning of the project I was given outline and aim of my project, it did not seem very complicated. I mean to say that the objective was very clear and the tools were obvious to use, however when I fully embarked on the mission there were complications that made me look for alternative solutions to the problem. I think it was unexpected for me deal with them however I wanted, I thought I had to follow some sort of procedure, but there was always room for my own creativity.

Also I met lot of people who were working in my research group that were doing completely different tasks to me. I definitely did not expect the problematics of B physics to be that rich. There were people who were working on software used by CERN, as well as people who analyzed the decays as well as people who were looking at the theory behind B physics.

What would you consider as your highlights of the URSS process?

For me URSS project was a highlight on its own. I have learnt a lot of skills that are transferable to the other areas of physics or just any science such as programming.

I learnt also how to work in a team when there were meetings that happened once every two weeks which encorporated people form CERN and FERMILAB talking about their work progress.

I also learnt how to speak about problem to your supervisors.

I met a lot of PhD students who were very motivated to help and talk about their work.

I also enjoyed that every Wednesday the department organized evening where all summer students presented their summer projects so I have learnt how differents physics research can be and how other students like me solved problems.

Did you encounter any challenges, issues or difficulties whilst partaking in the URSS? How did you overcome them?

Obviously there were instances when I felt Like my progress is very slow and that I will not be able to attain my aim, but there was always somebody who gave me hint or help with it, so the solution to the problem was always communication with other people.

How do you feel about the URSS now that you have completed your project?

I still have poster to do, but I feel very happy that I decided to take part in this scheme. It was definitely worth spending summer kepping my brain busy as well as do something that I enjoy. I learnt a lot about the particular topic and it definitely made me think that research is something I would want to do in the future.

September 17, 2012

Researcher Development Goal 2

What was the objective you set yourself?

Being able to draw conclusion given the data and parameters of experiments.

What actions did you take to achieve it?

I have read background information about my two particles - a Lambda b baryon and B zero meson and their possible decay modes. Obviously there is a very long list which consists of many decays. I had to look at stripping that was applied and see the cuts that were performed in order to create histograms from the selected data.

There were two sets of data, Monte Carlo simulations and real data. Monte Carlo simulation is not generated randomnly as it may sound but the selection of the data, or rather the dataset that is obtained is chosen differently from the real dataset that one obtains. Subsequently, one has to compare the two and retrieve the signal from the Monte Carlo simulations and see whether real data have included some unknown contributions-which is called physics background. Exact contributions come from looking at the decay modes so that one can identify which one is responsible for not described data. One has to know which particular modes could be included. For this it is necessary to read scientific papers where similar decay rates and the method for analyzing them was used. So I searched for them and I have checked whether they are plausible and fit into my histogram created using the real dataset. Some of them have never been tried before since this is the first time one has so much data available.

One has to also decide on the dataset that is final using several possible cuts. These needed to be decided upon carefully that not too much information is lost, because it would have reflected into bigger uncertainties so one has to llok how tightly the cuts are done.

In order to compare the datasets, one uses mathematical functions to describe the shape of them. The simpler they are easier it is to explain the physics behind, but sometimes the cost for that is that the uncertainties are too significant for one´s results to be usable in further analysis. So I calculated uncertainties to see whether they are within the error range that make them acceptable.

How do you know you have achieved your goal?

I have described both of my dataset and checked their chi squared (which is a statisticla tool that gives you the way to measure how closely you described your data given your function) and one can see that the fits are very good (ie the number is too low).

Also I was able to eliminate the contributions in my data tha accounted for physics background by looking at the several decays.

I also calculated the uncertanties that are propagated as one does selection cuts. And I was able to decide on whether to keep certain and discard the others.

What new or existing skills have you developed as a result of achieving this objective?

I have learnt how to look through several apers that have been published. Apart from LHCb experiment in CERN one can look into CDF experiment in Fermilab and see at similar analysis that already had been made in the past. I learnt that since I am working with quite rare decays the amount of data one works with is very crucial to the analysis. I learnt that what could have been described as combinatorial background in the past now has explanation that one has to dig further.

I also learnt that within particle physics papers, some are more reliable than the others and I have gained some selection process experience in order to draw conclusions.

How will these support your research project, studies or career?

My project is built so as to investigate this rare decays and the contributions to their physics backgrounds. If one wants to "get the numbers for the decay rates" one has to look at many different things in order to finalize the numbers. So to be able to draw conclusions given the dataset is inevitable.

This decision making process is very important also in the actual scientific career. One should be familiar with ALL aspects of his work in order to be able to conclude something that is sensible and correct. Therefore it is important to read around and try to look for as many possibilities so that the selection proccess for the best fit has been decide on very carefully.

If you were to set yourself the same objective again, what would you do differently?

I do not think there are many things I would have changed because the way I drew conclusions was very systematic and accounted for very low error in my results. Maybe one thing I would have done differently is to ask more often for relevant papers and look at the method other researchers used and then try to see for myself if it is any better then mine, their way could have possibly save me some time.

September 16, 2012

Researcher Development Goal 1

What was the objective you set yourself?

I wanted to become familiar with Python-a programming language that could be used for analyzing data.

What actions did you take to achieve it?

I obtained a book from library.
I used numerous online resources for python programming.
I have asked for some templates that my supervisor used in the past and try to learn the structure of the program by modifying and playing with the code.
I have been also writing short assignments and small programs to see whether I can complete bigger tasks.

How do you know you have achieved your goal?

I was able to complete small assignements that were set to me that included writing functions and combining them as well as calculating the efficiencies and uncertainties. Currently I am rewriting some files in order for them to be more specific to my decay.
I can see that my results are sensible and they give me expected values. Therefore I think my goal here was achieved.

What new or existing skills have you developed as a result of achieving this objective?

I devellopped a lot of skills that come with computing knowledge, ie how to chain my data. I also realized that one must start with a simplified version rather than attacking more demanding version first because one can get confused if he/she is not too fluent with all commands. I also learnt to distinguish between what is possible in mathematics and what does that mean to computing, ie it is diifferent approach to write a function and to compute various results using that function.
As I realized only later on, since I am working with LHCb data, I have to use a framework called Root. That meant that not only I had to to master Python but also C++, hence I learnt the basis of another programming language. In addition I have learnt how a framework that connect programs in several different languages work.

How will these support your research project, studies or career?

I have to write small chunks of code to be able to extract the right data. Apart from that I needed to fit graphs with functions. For that I needed to become familiar with mathematical interpretation of them to be able to program them in order to fit the graphs with those functions. So I have looked at the simplified version of my function and then added more and more features in order to obtain the desired version that was more complicated.
It can benefit also my studies since next year I am taking module that is based around C programming and I learnt C++ which is very similar in terms of command usage.
Also since I understood that programming ability is essential to research, it will definitely help my future career regardless of which exact physics field I plan to embark.

If you were to set yourself the same objective again, what would you do differently?

I would probably look at the templates first rather than having a book because programming language books are usually not very physics orientated. ie it teaches you to learn how to program but they are not very good when it comes to specific programs that you are suppose to generate. Even though it does not teach you systematic approach, it is definitely better for fast learning.

June 26, 2012

URSS Action Plan


My computational/experimental project relies onthe data from Centre for Nuclear Research.

I am going to investigate the decay rate and other properties of Lambda(b) --> J/psi[psi(2S)] p K decay.


Following the meeting with my supervisor Michal Kreps, we decided to do following actions to complete my project:

1. I created the account in Cern in order to be able to access the relevant data - especially LHCb DaVinci package which specializes in tutorials for LHCb - data I obtain come from this detector.

2. I am going to download Data analysis framework ROOT - tutorials, which are helpful with handling and analyzing the data.

3. Start with Python - programming language that I will use to produce smaller or larger blocks of code to be able to select the data.

4. I have to do more reading on the statistics, ie parameter estimation, especially maximum likelyhood method. I am planning to do this over my summer holidays. This is necessary for statistical analysis of the data, which allows me to draw conclusions.

5. Learn and study Dalitz plot and amplitude analysis - is a scatterplot often used in particle physics to represent the relative frequency of various manners in which the products of certain three-body decays may move apart. This is the type of decay I am going to be looking at.

6. After all this preparation, I am going to work with real time data and see, whether predictions of the Standard Model match the results obtained by processing of the data.

7. Produce poster (A1) to summarize the results of my work.

Researcher Development Goal 1

Learn a new programming language - PYTHON

What is the challenge or skill that I would like to develop?

Become fluent in completing short programming assignements.

What am I going to do to achieve this?

Download the program which provides the environment for this programming language.

Look at exercise tasks in Python books/ Internet online guides and try to solve them.

Try to look specifically for programs that are used within analyzing the data and try to rewrite them using my comuter files and folders

Why have I chosen this particular objective?

Because it is the main tool of working with data. Without this language it would be very hard to do anything at allwith data. One folder works with 18. 8 GB of data and I have only 8 weeks to do this project.

Is this achievable within the timeframe and resources available?

Yes, one just need patience and will and practice.

When will I achieve this by?

Within first 3 weeks of my project.

How am I going to know that I have been successful?

If the program I created selects data I wish to select and my program runs within sensible time span of few senconds and my data is obtained within already observed uncertainties I know that I have succeeded.

Researcher Development Goal 2

Being able to draw conclusions given the data and parameters of experiments.

What is the challenge or skill that I would like to develop?

In order to achieve this I need to be able to look for the relevant information in relevant scientific publications (papers, books, posters). Therefore I need to read, read, and read and learn how to abstract only relevant passages and see how other researchers in this field came to conclusions.

What am I going to do to achieve this?

Reading and practising to summarize my work. If I observe any kind of correlation, try to look at possible explanations.

Why have I chosen this particular objective?

Because nowadays it is very important to present the outcome. To draw conclusions and to be exact with presenting them is a very handful skill.

Is this achievable within the timeframe and resources available?

It should be, if I can have a lot of support in the beginning.

When will I achieve this by?

By the end of my 8 week project.

How am I going to know that I have been successful?

If I am going to be able to communicate my results and be able to answer questions about the project, methodology, experiments clearly and quickly. If I am presented with a similar set of data and I am trying to look at a different decay, I should be able to extract possible contributions to my signal and background.

April 28, 2012

My Researcher Profile

Name: Slavomira Stefkova

Department: Physics

Project Department: Physics

Supervisor: Michal Kreps

Why does your URSS project interest you?

This project interests me because it is Particle Physics related. It works with real time data directly from Cern (Centre for Nuclear Research). It offes an opportunity to look at specific decays and their properties (rate decay). It also interests me because it has computational basis- ie I can apply the computational skills I have learnt this year to real world physics.

What are you hoping to achieve through your URSS project?

I am hoping to develop a program that will extract the relavant data that will give me some statistical significance. I can on this basis compare the theory predictions with my results. I am hoping also to broden my knowledge in particle/quantum/statistical physics.

What new skills are you hoping to develop?

Learn to program specifically in Python. Speed reading of physics journals. Tansferable skills - presentation and communicating with other researchers. Time management. Develop my own model rather then always learning what others have researched.

What contribution to knowledge could your URSS project make?

I would like to have finished a program that is capable of extracting relevant data and then try to understand why it fits or it does not fit with the theory prediction. produce a proffesional research paper that contributes to the completion of the research of Standard Model.

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  • Helllo again Slavomira, Thanks for your comments here for the URSS and your own Project. I can see t… by on this entry
  • Dear Slavomira, I'm happy to know that you have completed your URSS Project successfully. Congratula… by on this entry
  • Hello again Slavomira, I've just found that you have finished the entry for Researcher Development G… by on this entry
  • Hello Slavomira, Thank you for blogging your updates about the Researcher Development Goal 1 here. I… by on this entry
  • Dear Slavomira, Thank you for completing your URSS Action Plan! It's good to read that you have a go… by on this entry

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