Student to intern at CERN, world's largest particle physics lab

Joe Gibson, second from right, with interns at NASA's Robotics Lab.
Joe Gibson, second from right, with interns at NASA's Robotics Lab.
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In less than two weeks, computer engineering student Joe Gibson will travel to Switzerland to conduct research at CERN, home of the world’s largest particle physics lab.

Gibson, a senior from Walker, is one of four students from the U.S. selected to complete an internship at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, also known by the French acronym CERN. It’s an organization that uses the world’s largest and most complex scientific tools to study matter. 

During the four-month internship, Gibson will work on a software program that conducts simulations to determine the validity of certain experiments researchers may perform in the particle physics lab. 

Gibson applied for the CERN Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates Program at the University of Michigan. He will join students from the University of Washington, University of Michigan and University of California, Berkeley.

This isn’t Gibson’s first internship. Last year he joined NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Washington, D.C., where he worked on a computer program for BETTII, a telescope that studies star formation. 

“If you asked me where I was going to work when I was 8 years old, I would’ve said NASA,” said Gibson. “It was an amazing experience.” 

He said support from his professors, including Bogdan Adamczyk, Bruce Dunne, Karen Gipson, Roger Ferguson and Médar Serrata, and the engineering co-op prep class prepared him for the application and interview process. As part of the engineering program, each student has to complete three semesters of an internship or co-op. 

Chris Plouff, interim director of the School of Engineering, said Gibson was the first Grand Valley student to get accepted into NASA’s internship program. “He’s a high achiever. He’s done a great job at leveraging his strong academic record, professionalism and communications skills to secure these positions,” said Plouff. 

Plouff, also the James R. Sebastian chair of the Cooperative Education and Education Development program, said student interest in engineering is growing at Grand Valley. “This summer we had 120 new students complete co-ops; it was 80 students last year,” he said. “This fall we have more than 400 students enrolled in the first engineering design course, compared to 250 students two years ago.”