Two Qatari electrical engineering students graduating from Texas A&M University at Qatar (TAMUQ) this year, have spoken of their life-changing internships with CERN, the largest research centre in the world for high energy physics.

Abdulaziz Al Qahtani

Qatari brother and sister Abdulaziz Al Qahtani and Shaikha Al Qahtani spent eight weeks as interns of CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research based in Geneva, Switzerland to join the day-to-day work of research teams participating in cutting-edge experiments. The siblings were chosen out of 7,000 student applications and were the only Qatari participants among the 340 individuals accepted to the programme.

Abdulaziz worked on CERN’s large particle detector, the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS), located across the border in France. The CMS experiment is one of the largest international scientific collaborations in history. Abdulaziz said he saw the powerful impact of shared research initiatives during his internship. 

This was a wakeup call for me. Before, I just wanted to finish university, find a job, get experience, and then perhaps continue my studies. Now I realise research is the future. While CERN is not a business, it is a sustainable research-driven committee. So this is why I think that the most sustainable income in Qatar should come through collaborative research.’

Shaikha Al Qahtani

Shaikha, on the other hand, worked on the Large Hadron Collider ATLAS detector, the largest volume particle detector ever constructed which aims to discover new particles and find answers to several unanswered questions in the field of physics. The detector is located 100 metres below ground near the main CERN site.

Shaikha said that during her internship at CERN, she worked with the University of Bologna and had three mentors, each with their own specialities. She said that she and her brother were almost like competitors, since he had to work on the other side of CERN.

Abdulaziz said he was able to publish a paper at the end of his internship, thanks to the ‘tough love’ he received at the hands of his mentor. He said that not everyone were able to publish their papers at this stage (of their internship), especially not during their undergraduate studies.’

Beyond the scientific value of their stay, the students also had the opportunity to work with multi-cultural teams, attend lectures, visit CERN facilities, and take part in discussions and workshops with people who are leaders in their fields. According to Abdulaziz, the opportunity to work with various professionals has been one of the highlights of the internship experience. Both students said they are now inspired to pursue a masteral degree and PhD as a result of their internship experiences at CERN.

In 2016, Qatar Foundation signed an international cooperation agreement with CERN, which outlined long-term collaborations and future opportunities between engineers and technicians from Qatar in research projects at CERN.  

To know more about the internship programme of Qatar Foundation, visit their website at qf.org.qa.