CMS LHC Physics Center hosts a successful virtual data analysis school

As the CMS collaboration prepares for Run 3 of the Large Hadron Collider, set to begin this spring, LHC physicists from around the world continue to analyze the wealth of data collected in Run 2. The learning curve for how to analyze such complex data can be steep for new members of the collaboration, particularly for students new to the world of high-energy physics. One way in which the LHC Physics Center at Fermilab helps flatten that curve is by offering dedicated schools on data analysis at CMS.

Benelli and Tonjes during one of the daily closeout sessions. It’s where participants come together to review the day, have any questions answered, and get reminders about collaborative cooperation, learning with a growth mindset, and being kind and patient with themselves and their fellow students and facilitators in an intense, fully remote training course. Photo: CMS

The LPC hosted its 12th annual CMS Data Analysis School, the second to be held fully virtually, from Jan. 4-14, 2022. More than 120 students, postdocs and faculty from around the world took part; half, primarily graduate students and postdocs, participated as students, while the other half lectured and facilitated exercises. The facilitators comprised LPC distinguished researchers, former CMS DAS students and other CMS scientists, who volunteered their time preparing, testing, rewriting and presenting long and short exercises for the school.

Two “group photo” screenshots assembled from the second week of CMSDAS@LPC2022 on Zoom. Photo: CMS

At CMS DAS, students first receive lectures and carry out short exercises on the basic tools and principles of physics analysis at CMS. After this introductory portion, teams of students then work on a long exercise that is a full-blown CMS data analysis.

On the last day of the school, students summarize their analyses in presentations that are judged by a panel and the best teams are awarded special prizes. These team exercises, needless to say, presented challenges for students who all were working remotely and often spread out over multiple time zones across the world.

Nonetheless, the student teams managed to collaborate effectively and presented their results in a mini-symposium on the final day of the school, demonstrating how much they had learned and managed to apply in such a short period of time. The school also facilitated breaks from the hard work with a few organized social events, including trivia, a virtual Rubik’s cube contest and skribbl, a drawing/guessing game.

The organization of this year’s CMS DAS was led by the LPC coordinators and support staff, Gabriele Benelli of Brown University and Marguerite Tonjes of the University of Illinois, Chicago, who bring years of experience organizing past sessions of CMS DAS. As Kevin Black, my LPC co-coordinator and University of Wisconsin professor, put it, “Gabriele and Marguerite are the lifeblood of the LPC; they take care of developing the program, implementing it, organizing facilitators, setting up the agenda and overseeing the school to ensure its high quality. They are the real core behind the CMS DAS at the LPC.”

As the CMS collaboration takes data in Run 3 of the LHC, future incarnations of CMS DAS will be overhauled with exercises applicable to those datasets. We hope to be able to welcome students back to Fermilab soon and once again hold these schools in person.

Bo Jayatilaka is a scientist in the CMS department and the scientific computing division and co-coordinator of the LHC Physics Center.

CMS department communications are coordinated by Fermilab scientist Pushpa Bhat.