31 March 2008

Antonio Cárdenas

Nationality: Venezuelan

Antonio Cárdenas

When the Venezuelan Antonio Cárdenas discovered the program HELEN –the High Energy Physics Latin American European network – he did not doubt it a second and applied for it. For this physics student from the University of Los Andes in Venezuela, HELEN was a unique chance to come to Europe and get hands on particle physics, a field that he had only read about in books before.

Antonio got a grant from the EU-funded HELEN program, and last September set off to Paris, where he is finishing his physics degree at the Laborateur of l’Accelerateur Lineaire. As part of his final year dissertation, Antonio is analysing data for the calibration of the liquid argon calorimeter in the ATLAS detector. The twenty-two year old Venezuelan feels very lucky about working in a lab in France for an experiment at CERN: “ATLAS is such a huge project, with people from all over the world involved,” he says. “I haven’t seen something like that in Venezuela…or anywhere else in the world” Last February, Antonio had the chance to come over to CERN during the Liquid Argon week. It was Antonio’s first visit to the biggest particle physics lab in the world and he was certainly impressed.

Antonio gave a talk on his work on the noise autocorrelation coefficients stability of the liquid argon calorimeter. He is throughout enjoying his research for ATLAS, as his project combines his three passions together: “I have always liked software, electronics and physics.”

As Antonio says, HELEN is a very good opportunity for people who otherwise would have never had the chance of working in particle physics. The program provides Latin-American physicists with the contacts in prestigious physics labs in Europe and pays living expenses: “Without the program, I could have never embarked on high-energy physics,” Antonio says. In Venezuela, as with the rest of Latin American countries, particle physics is kicking off just now because of the high cost of building experimental facilities.

Antonio’s long-standing love for physics started out with physicists’ common feature: the desire of finding out how the most fundamental processes happen. “Physics allow us to talk the language of Nature,” he says. Paternal influence also played a key part that leaded Antonio into physics. His father is a chemical engineer who taught physical chemistry at university and Antonio always wanted to find out the depths of thermodynamics differential equations.

Nevertheless, Antonio’s feeling of excitement of actively contributing to physics equals to the excitement of the fantastic experience of living in France: “HELEN is also a good opportunity for people that have never been out of their countries in Latin America, it is also an opportunity for a great cultural exchange that can teach you a lot,” Antonio says.

In the future, Antonio already knows that he would like to continue his scientific career if the opportunity arises. But he already knows that his choice is a tough one. To the reflexion that science is a hard path, which usually involves lots of personal sacrifice, he has things very clear “Science is personal pleasure; this is the reason why we do it.” But first, he says, when he completes his degree early this summer, he wants to live one year in Europe, maybe London or Barcelona, and he would like to do something completely different to science. Let’s see what the next non-physics adventure is for Antonio!

For more details on South American institutes participation in ATLAS, see Peter Jenni's article in ATLAS e-news, or contact Nick Ellis for more information on the HELEN program.



    Cristina Jimenez