One minute with Mattia Checchin, graduate researcher

Graduate student Mattia Checchin researches superconducting radio-frequency accelerator cavity performance at Fermilab. He has won three first-prize poster awards on his work. Photo: Reidar Hahn

Graduate student Mattia Checchin researches superconducting radio-frequency accelerator cavity performance at Fermilab. He has won three first-prize poster awards on his work. Photo: Reidar Hahn

How long have you been at Fermilab?
I started my Ph.D. here two years ago working on superconducting accelerating cavities. I was also a summer student in 2013.

How’d get you into superconducting cavities?
I was finishing my bachelor’s in material science on nanoparticles when I took a course about vacuum technology at INFN-LNL, a national laboratory in Italy. I visited the labs where they worked on superconducting cavities to accelerate particles, which sounded exotic to me. So I got curious.

I enjoy working with cavities because there is a real application. It can sometimes happen that I work on something today, and tomorrow it might be built into an accelerator.

What does your typical workday look like?
My typical workday depends heavily on our cavity testing schedule. On days with cavity tests, I’m in the control room for the tests and measure the performance of cavities.

On days without cavity tests, I have two main occupations: learn even more about cavities or superconductivity through papers and articles, or work on my own models and simulations to explain why the cavities behave the way they do.

Truth to be told, it’s great that I can do both: the theoretical and the hands-on work with cavities.

What would you consider the most exciting part of your job?
The most exciting part is when my simulations agree with our experimental data. That’s really great. It is also exciting if you see the effort you invest in understanding the physics underneath the cavities performance. Then it can be applied in new and more powerful accelerators that may be employed to discover new physics of the world that surrounds us.

What about your work earned you three poster awards?
I think it’s the quality of the research. Maybe it’s also presentation skills — as an Italian I use my hands during my explanations — but to be honest I don’t know if I am a good presenter. At the end, I believe even if someone is a good presenter without good scientific content, they would not win. So if you ask me, it’s the content.

What is something people might not know about you?
I am a self-taught didgeridoo player. I started playing during high school thanks to a friend who owned a didgeridoo. I also play two different kind of African drums, djembe and tarabuka.