A chat with V?t Ku?era
V?t Ku?era has been recently awarded the 2016 ALICE thesis prize for his work on strange particle production in jets, which he carried out at the Charles University in Prague and the University of Strasbourg. Currently a postdoc with the Czech Academy of Sciences, he is continuing his research career in ALICE and is going to spend much time at CERN in the next years.
When choosing his Master's Course, he found himself hesitating between particle physics and astrophysics, since he was very fond of both fundamental physics and astronomy. Besides, he was a guide for an observatory. In the end, he decided to go for particle physics and, during his studies at the Charles University in Prague, he started a collaboration with ALICE. “I got very interested in heavy-ion physics, since in some way it combines my two interests: the origin of the universe on one side and subatomic physics on the other,” explains V?t.
In particular, he joined a group at the Nuclear Physics Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences and carried out a study of the spectra of jets. By the time he finished his Master, he had gained some experience in this kind of analysis and was willing to expand his knowledge in this domain. Thus, V?t and his supervisor established a collaboration between their team in Prague and a group working on light flavours at the Institut Pluridisciplinaire Hubert Curien in Strasbourg, in order to combine the expertise of the two groups and perform a study on strange particles in jets. This resulted in him enrolling for a PhD shared between the two institutions with such analysis as the topic of his thesis.
Since he had to attend lectures both in Prague and in Strasbourg, he spent four years travelling frequently between these two cities and CERN. “It was a very nice experience but sometimes also stressful,” V?t admits, “in particular because each time I had to organize my stay in these places”.
After completing his PhD at the end of 2016, he focused on publishing the results of his research, while looking for postdocs. He also participated in the ALICE thesis award contest, which he has just won. “The news that I was awarded the prize arrived as a surprise, a pleasant surprise. I am very happy for it, of course.”
At the moment, V?t is working for the Czech Academy of Sciences on the Silicon Strip Detector (SSD) monitoring. This activity is giving him the occasion to gain experience in hardware and to become more familiar with the instrumentation of ALICE. He will spend the next four months at CERN, where he will cover the role of System Run Coordinator and will be on-call for part of his stay.
“I am just starting in this new role, it is a new challenge,” comments V?t. “I am looking forward to getting more involved in the whole process, from the moment when data are taken to when physics results are produced. I also hope that it will give me more insights into how the collaboration works.”
He has already a project for the next years. After completing his duties in his current position, he will join the Korean team for a longer postdoc, still in ALICE. “I am willing to embark on a different kind of analysis with respect to the one I have been developing for my PhD thesis,” he explains, “but we haven't specified the topic yet. I am considering going for heavy flavour particle production or some correlation study. I will decide after I get to know better all the Korean groups, the kind of research they are following and the availability of data.”
He will spend most of his time at CERN, but he will have the possibility to stay in Korea for about a month per year. Thus, teaching at a university is not in his future plans, at least for the moment. “I actually enjoy the process of giving advice and explaining concepts to students when I have to follow somebody during their research, but it can also be stressful and tiring. So, probably, I prefer to keep working in a laboratory for now, as at CERN.”
Besides research, which he likes especially for the continuous process of learning that it implies, he also enjoys photography, gymnastics and hiking. “I normally go up in the mountains during summer… Now I will probably have to get used to skiing as well.”