In the triangle Uni Zurich-PSI-CERN

Lea Caminada: teacher and researcher in particle physics

Anyone who studies physics at the University of Zurich knows Lea Caminada for her lectures. Most of the time, however, you will not find the particle physicist on the Irchel campus, but at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) in Villigen in the canton of Aargau doing research. There, the 36-year-old scientist develops sophisticated measuring instruments, which are then used at CERN for cutting-edge research. In a questionnaire, Lea Caminada gives an insight into her everyday life as an experimental physicist.

Lea Caminada in front of the PSI building, where she works as a particle physicist.
Image: B. Vogel / B. Vogel, CHIPP

In 2012, the Higgs boson was discovered at the European Particle Physics Laboratory (CERN) in Geneva. The elementary particle with the associated Higgs field constitutes an important component of the modern physics world view. Thousands of researchers have participated in the experimental proof of the 'Higgs' existence. One of them was Lea Caminada. The particle physicist, trained at ETH Zurich, co-developed the so-called pixel detector at PSI in the research group of Prof. Roland Horisberger.

The pixel detector is the innermost sub-detector of CMS located close to the collision point (more details). It provides high-resolution 3D space points required for the reconstruction of the tracks and vertices of charged particles. It’s like a very fancy 3D camera that allows us to study the very first impressions of the collision between the two protons taking 40 million pictures per second. It has more than 124 million pixels, each with a size of 100 μm × 150 μm. The barrel part of the pixel detector is shown in the picture.
Lea has been working on system level aspects, basically making the whole pixel system work. At University of Zurich, we built a test setup (in 2014) that included all parts of the upgrade system which was very useful to validate design choices, check the functionality of all parts and learn how to operate them. During the production phase (2015-16) Lea Caminada was responsible for the assembly of the pixel detector readout electronics on the supply tube. This was also done at University of Zurich. Then at PSI she worked on the merging of the readout electronics with the detector part that has been assembled at PSI. The reseracher was in charge of coordinating the testing and commissioning of the barrel pixel detector at PSI and also later at CERN. She took part in the installation of the detector and she was active in detector operation during collision data taking.

Since mid-2017, the second, further improved version of the pixel detector is in use in the CMS detector. Lea Caminada has helped to develop this version too. The detector is the main reason why Lea Caminada, in addition to her teaching duties at the University of Zurich and her research work at PSI, makes detours to CERN again and again. " We discuss there whether everything runs smoothly and how we can further improve the detector," says the scientist. According to the plan, in 2026 the third version of the pixel detector will go into operation and allow the particle physicists at the LHC even more detailed insights into the matter.

Author: Benedikt Vogel

In the attached questionnaire, Lea Caminada gives an insight into her daily work as a physicist.

Lea Caminada: questionnaire
Lea Caminada: questionnaireImage: B. Vogel, CHIPP, Switzerland
  • Lea Caminada - installation
  • Lea Caminada - supply tube
  • Dr. Lea Caminada teaches at the University of Zurich. Her main focus, however, is research at the Paul Scherrer Institute (Villigen / AG) and at CERN.
  • The entrance to the Paul Scherrer Institute, a large research institution of the ETH domain.
  • Lea Caminada's workplace in the PSI lab.
  • Lea Caminada - installationImage: Lea Caminada, CHIPP, Switzerland1/5
  • Lea Caminada - supply tubeImage: Lea Caminada, CHIPP, Switzerland2/5
  • Dr. Lea Caminada teaches at the University of Zurich. Her main focus, however, is research at the Paul Scherrer Institute (Villigen / AG) and at CERN.Image: B. Vogel / B. Vogel, CHIPP, Switzerland3/5
  • The entrance to the Paul Scherrer Institute, a large research institution of the ETH domain.Image: B. Vogel / B. Vogel, CHIPP, Switzerland4/5
  • Lea Caminada's workplace in the PSI lab.Image: B. Vogel / B. Vogel, CHIPP, Switzerland5/5
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  • Particle Physics