Rather, the reason of my not talking much about myself and my personal / work life is the good old one: lack of time. If I have time to write an article, I try to do it on a subject which I suppose will be more interesting to the readers of this site. Hence physics, rather than life and work, takes the precedence. But it needs not be so all the time, so today I will try to go in the other direction.
The other use of writing a summary of things that have been going on around me is that I can put together a list of topics that I wish to discuss in more depth when the chance arises. At least, I find some of those things stimulating to discuss.
So let me start with telling you about where my working time goes. I do not claim that this is an interesting topic for a blog article, but on the other hand I have learned that many readers are interested to actually know how the activities of a researcher -in e.g. particle physics, as is my case- is organized.
In the recent past, a significant portion of my working time has been taken up by running and participating in two "Innovative training networks", two 4-year-long European Commission - funded programs that have the goal of furthering research in particle physics as well as machine learning. The first, of which I am the scientific coordinator, is AMVA4NewPhysics (blog and web site here). This is a 17-node network that started in 2015 and hired 11 early-stage researchers to perform searches for new physics and Higgs boson measurements using advanced analysis tools, as well as develop new machine learning techniques.
The network is gearing toward the end of its life span, and has produced several interesting research deliverables, along with the organization of doctoral schools and other successful events. The Ph.D. student I hired in Padova, Pablo de Castro Manzano, is about to defend his thesis. Besides producing an upper limit on the pair-production of Higgs bosons (the article has been submitted for publication recently), we wrote an article which I believe will be important in the future analysis of collider data - in it we describe the INFERNO algorithm, basically a technique to learn with a carefully designed neural network a low-dimensional representation of high-dimensional data and construct the lowest-variance estimator of a quantity to be measured, minimizing the impact of nuisance parameters. Preliminary studies indicate that this may become a game changer in a good fraction of HEP measurements, and that it can of course be used also in other domains.
The other network, INSIGHTS (web site here), has started last year, but the real activity has started only recently, when the 12 beneficiary nodes (headed by Royal Holloway University London) hired as many Ph.D. students. Again the focus is LHC and statistical methods, but there are interesting spin-offs and participation of industries. In Padova we recently hired a bright student, Hevjin Yarar, who will work with me and other team members of the CMS-Padova group on the measurement of a rare decay of B hadrons.
Apart from these activities, I have been continuing as a coordinator of the "gruppo 1" in Padova - the sector of INFN research activities performed with accelerators. In Padova there are four main groups of researchers that belong to that group: CMS, Belle II, LHCb, and a new endeavour called "RD_FA" focusing on future accelerator projects. I also manage the invitation of guests who come to Padova invited by INFN to give seminars on topics of interest to our group.
As a coordinator I also belong to a national committee who meets seven or eight times per year, and is charged with the decision on the funding of all Italian groups who participate to accelerator-based experiments around the world. A connected activity in this area is my role of referee of the scientific activities of the Italian group of researchers who participate in the BES-III experiment at IHEP in China.
A different activity that takes some of my time is the role of editor of a scientific publication by Elsevier, the journal Reviews in Physics. This is a fully open-access publication that produces reviews on physics topics (all of physics, not just particle physics), 20-page-long documents that should be readable by anybody who has a PhD in physics, and which provide a broad overview of specific fields of research. The journal is doing well, considering the huge competition on the market these days, and has acquired a quite good impact factor (around 4 IIRC). By the way, if you have a suggestion for a review for publication in our journal, please let me know!
Some of my research time for the CMS experiment is spent in reviewing analyses meant for publication. The CMS collaboration has a system of internal review of all its publications, where each receives a set of four reviewers who follow the analysis from advanced stage to publication. I am typically serving as chair of these review committees three or four times a year, and this means real work.
I also of course still belong to the CMS Statistics Committee, a group that advises CMS members on statistics issues arising in the data analysis. I stepped down as chair of the group in 2015 when I had to devote more time to the AMVA4NewPhysics network, but I remain a member and (try to) attend meetings and follow the activities. This is not a heavy load, and sitting in the committee means being able to listen to very interesting problems and cunning solutions, and interact with a bunch of some of the smartest of my colleagues. It goes without saying that I am proud of being still part of this group!
Finally, still speaking of my involvement in the CMS experiment, there are meetings. I usually do not have time to attend to any, and we are talking of MANY meetings here, in fact CMS (=compact muon solenoid) has been dubbed "Continuous Meeting System" by facetious insiders). But sometimes I do attend, and try to follow the presentations that relate to the kind of physics I am most interesting in. Now, if you ask me what that is, I would be a bit embarrassed to say I am not sure! I am certainly involved in Higgs physics analyses, but I am also trying to follow B physics measurements, plus searches for new physics (I often get to be the chair of internal reviews of such studies).
And then there is teaching. As a INFN employee (not a university academic) I have no teaching duties, but INFN researchers are often invited to take on teaching of university courses. This year I am doing an experiment - one strongly wanted by prof. Bruno Scarpa, a statistician at the department of Statistical Sciences of the University of Padova. The challenge is to offer to master students in Statistics a course in particle physics - something that is completely alien to their curriculum of studies. So in the matter of 64 hours of teaching these guys and gals are supposed to learn everything there is to know about experimental particle physics, to get to the point of being able to take part in the data analysis of LHC experiments. Of course, there is a limit on the amount of information I can transfer to my students in such a short time span, but I have been doing that with intent and I think the experiment is going to succeed - the measure of success being the fact that a few students will come and do data analysis with the CMS group for their thesis!
Another course I teach every year is the one on "Statistics for data analysis", at the PhD school in Physics in Padova. This is a lightweight occupation, as it typically takes 8 to 12 hours of lectures and a few exams down the line. But there are other PhD schools that occasionally invite me to lecture their students abroad, so that adds up to this occupation. For instance, this summer this brought me to a Statistics school for physicists in La Londe les Maures (France), and next March I will go to Braga (Portugal) for a similar event.
And then there are conferences and workshops. Organizing these events is very time-consuming. This year I took on the organization of the parallel session on "Statistical methods for data analysis in the XXI century", for the "Quark Confinement and the Hadron Spectrum XIII" conference that took place in Maynooth (Ireland) in August. I also contributed to the organization of a few workshops of my ITN networks: one on Statistics in Padova, one on Outreach at CERN, and a INSIGHTS workshop also in Padova. All three took place in September, when I got crazy with my travel and work schedule.
One further activity I am deeply involved in is the lecturing in high schools, for a project called "Art&Science Across Italy", which challenges students in the 16-17 years old age group to produce artistic works inspired by the physics we do with the CMS experiment at CERN. I am following the work of about 150 students from 6 schools in the Venice area, and this means giving 12 lectures in the course of the next few months, plus visiting the schools another dozen times to see what progress the students will be doing. By no means a lightweight occupation, but a rewarding one, as the students are usually enthusiastic about this.
In November next year their works will be used for a public exhibition at the "Museo di Storia Naturale" of Venice. The best works will then participate to a national exhibition in Naples in March of 2020, and the students winning the competition (a few dozens) will win scholarships to participate in a visit to CERN during a week in September 2020. I know students are enthusiastic because four of the students from Venice did go to CERN three months ago for the past edition, and their comments about the experience were rave!
Finally, I should mention that I am presently the tutor of two Ph. D. students (whom I have already introduced) and of a Master student. The latter is going to study clustering algorithms for the tagging of the charge of b-quark jets, for a measurement of CP violation we are planning to do in Padova (it is the Ph. D. topic of another student).
So I guess the above is a good summary of my work activities as of late. Of course I have spared you the gory details of other minor commitments (selection committees, review of publications for journals, PhD committees, what not). Overall, I feel a bit overworked but I have learned to manage all these things as a navigated juggler.
A big help in keeping up with work recently has been the move of my residence from Venice to Padova, which took place on December 31 last year. This meant cutting my commute time from 1+1 hours to 10+10 minutes. True, part of the old commute time was spent on a train, where I was able to get stuff done with my laptop; but the stress relief caused by throwing away my alarm clock (I literally did) was priceless.
Living in Padova was no surprise to me, as I have been studying and working here for the better part of the last 30 years. It offers pluses and minuses with respect to Venice, and being a "glass half full" kind of guy I tend to believe that the pluses far outweigh the minuses. Venice is of course a fantastic, magical place; but life there as a resident is a thorny crown. The city has gradually become a tourist park, to the point that as a resident you cannot count on even the most basic services. Everything is designed around the business of squeezing money from tourists pockets. And then, I should mention that housing prices are twice as high as they are in Padova, so that was also a significant motivation (I wanted to buy a house and what I could afford in Venice was not comparable with what I actually found in Padova).
If you ask me, my life is good. I find time to engage in several of my favourite pastimes, from playing chess (although recently I mostly confined myself to online blitz), to improving my piano playing (these days I am studying Chopin's studies from Op. 10, especially no. 3 and 14), to reading about artificial intelligence developments or history, to observing galaxies with my Dobson 16" scope from remote locations in the Alps during moonless nights.
Also, in case you missed it, I got married in January 2017 to Kalliopi (see below), a lyrical singer, and we often spend time playing together (not as much as I would like to, but she's a professional and her voice is a precious resource!). We have managed to play in a few concerts together, but this remains a sporadic activity, partly because as a piano player I do not feel competent enough to offer myself as a performer... I am working on that too, however.
Wow, there's so much to say about travel... And this post is already way too long. I think I will take on this topic in a new one. For now, I can say only that work already causes me to travel more than I would like to (this year I flew to about 20 different destinations, and traveled by train or car to over a dozen more). Vacation-wise, 2018 saw us going to Greece, the Dolomites, and for christmas we are headed to Bali. But really, this is the topic of another article!
Tommaso Dorigo is an experimental particle physicist who works for the INFN at the University of Padova, and collaborates with the CMS experiment at the CERN LHC. He coordinates the European network AMVA4NewPhysics as well as research in accelerator-based physics for INFN-Padova, and is an editor of the journal Reviews in Physics. In 2016 Dorigo published the book “Anomaly! Collider physics and the quest for new phenomena at Fermilab”. You can get a copy of the book on Amazon.