The story of Akashrup Banerjee’s research stay at GSI in Darmstadt, Germany, actually starts with a long car trip away from Darmstadt. Together with a colleague he drove to Calais, took the ferry to Dover and went up to the University of Surrey near London, a 12-hours trip. The reason: They had to pick up 36 components for the new FATIMA detector at GSI – Akashrup had become the responsible scientist for these components upon his arrival in Darmstadt. The components contain extremely sensitive cerium-doped lanthanum bromide crystals (and photomultiplier tubes) to be used for detecting gamma-rays emitted by decaying radioactive nuclei. „Shipping with a freight forwarding company would have been way too dangerous to the sensitive detectors“, explains Akashrup. „Therefore we decided to drive ourselves.“
A new Sphere in Cave S4
Back in Darmstadt, one has to find one’s way through the labyrinth of concrete blocks in the big GSI Experimental Hall to meet Akashrup and his detector components
in the experimental cave S4. In the meantime, most of the components have been mounted to a sphere: FATIMA is close to be operative for the first tests within the frame of the Decay Spectroscopy Experiment (DESPEC). DESPEC aims to study the decay of exotic nuclei generated in the new FAIR accelerator facility in Darmstadt.
Meeting Nobel Laureates at Lindau
The first time Akashrup came to Germany was in 2012, when he had been selected – as a physics student – to join a group of 18 Indian students to stay a week at Lake Constance for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. He was fascinated by the meeting format: “For 6 days, Nobel laureates really live with the students, from breakfast till dinner.”
Fascinated by the construction of FAIR
During his subsequent Ph.D. in experimental nuclear physics at University of Delhi he worked on detector technology in an Indian group which is part of the FAIR research collaboration NUSTAR. During the NUSTAR spring meeting at GSI he firstly learned about the GET_INvolved Programme and decided to apply. “’GSI is a world leader in gamma-spectroscopy technology and it is the ‘place to be’ with the construction of the new accelerator facility FAIR!” Akashrup states, “GSI has 50 years of experience and sufficient financial resources for electronics and instruments to allow for excellent research in this field.”
Improving Science and Management Skills
Akashrup will now stay for one year in Darmstadt. “I like the interaction with people from different countries”, he says. “Here at GSI, I am working in a team of 20 people, among them Indians, Polish, British, Turkish and Saudi Arabians – and two Germans. The research stay here at GSI drags me out of my Indian comfort zone and allows me to profit from the good physics that is made here and to learn a lot besides physics.” Such as project management, taking over responsibility for a project and for Ph.D. students – and German, to be able to talk with the bus driver who brings him every day to the campus. “I will profit from my GET_INvolved stay both in further developing my technical skills and my management and intercultural skills”, Akashrup summarizes.
Heading for future Collaboration
The thing that Akashrup misses most in Germany (apart from family and friends): “Panipurí!” Akashrup smiles, “My favourite Indian street food. This is small fried wheat balls filled with potatoes and onions and a flavoured sauce.”
His long-term plans: Akashrup would like to stay in research, ideally with one of the developing particle accelerator facilities in India – and possibly establish his own collaboration with GSI and FAIR.
Research Stay of Akashrup Banerjee, New Delhi, India
Funding: GET_INvolved Research scholarship
Duration: 1 year
Application to GET_INvolved Programme: https://fair-center.eu/get_involved