Get technical at CERN

working in the Large Hadron Collider tunnel © 2005 CERNHome to the Large Hadron Colider, CERN is a leading international science organisation, based in Geneva, Switzerland. As well as bringing together world-class experts, CERN employs a range of technicians in roles with a practical focus.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is one of the world’s largest experimental machines. Inside a circular tunnel that is 27km long and 100m underground, two particle beams collide, travelling at almost the speed of light. The debris from these high energy collisions is helping us understand more about how our Universe began.

Pushing back the boundaries of science requires people who are not afraid to work at the cutting edge of technology. Alongside Physicists and Engineers, highly skilled technicians from around the world are playing an essential role.

CERN employs technicians in the following fields:

  • electronics
  • cryogenics
  • vacuum
  • cooling and ventilation
  • electricity
  • radioprotection
  • survey engineering
  • building works

 

Graeme Barlow is a mechanical technician working on cryogenics equipment for the superconducting magnets used in the LHC. This involves making sure that the components keeping the magnets colder than outer space are in perfect working order, as well as planning and delivering technical upgrades. He did an apprenticeship in the UK, qualifying as an instrument maker, and has spent his entire career working on large science experiments.

“Because these experiments have never been done before, we’re always pushing the frontiers of technology and seeing what is possible which brings lots of technical challenges and gives me the chance to be creative, and use and expand my skills,” he explains. “I work closely with highly qualified engineers from around the world who value my expertise and opinions.”

People from more than 80 countries work at CERN, bringing a diverse mix of cultures, interests and experience. There are two working languages; English and French. Every member of staff is expected to know at least one of the languages, and be willing to learn the other. CERN offers intensive language courses to help new staff settle in.

CERN is a great place to work,” says Graeme, “the science goals are exciting and that makes the engineering challenging and interesting.  Everything I do has to meet high levels of quality and precision because it could affect the performance of the Large Hadron Collider.”

Want to find out more?

CERN has recently launched its Technicians Training Scheme, a pilot scheme that gives newly qualified BTEC or GNVQ technicians the chance to gain two years’ work experience in an international environment.  The scheme provides a supportive atmosphere in which to develop skills and expertise that are highly valued at CERN and other high-tech organisations. It also offers a competitive salary of 3500 CHF each month. More details are available on the CERN website.

And see what it’s like to work at CERN in this short video: