CERN Summer Student Programme 2024: An Insider’s Guide

An Exciting Opportunity for Aspiring Scientists and Engineers

The CERN Summer Student Programme is an incredible opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to gain hands-on research experience at one of the world’s leading scientific institutions. Each summer, CERN welcomes over 100 students from all over the world to participate in cutting-edge research projects alongside top physicists and engineers.

In this article, we’ll provide an authoritative guide to the CERN Summer Student Programme for 2024. We’ll cover the application process, eligibility requirements, research areas, accommodation, and more. By the end, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of what to expect if selected for this prestigious program.

Key Things to Know About the 2024 Programme

Before diving into the details, here are some important things to note about next summer’s programme:

  • Dates: The programme runs from early June to late August 2024, spanning roughly 12 weeks.
  • Projects: A wide range of projects will be available across CERN’s departments, from accelerator physics to software engineering.
  • Locations: Students will be based at CERN’s main site in Geneva, Switzerland but may travel for experiments at other facilities.
  • Housing: Fully furnished accommodation is provided on-site at the CERN Meyrin and Prévessin sites.
  • Stipend: Students receive a monthly stipend of 2,000 CHF to cover living expenses in Switzerland.
  • Deadline: The application period opens in early fall 2023. The final deadline to apply is usually mid-January 2024.
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Now let’s explore each component of the programme in more detail. Buckle up—there’s a lot of great information ahead!

Eligibility Requirements For CERN Summer Student Programme

To be eligible for the CERN Summer Student Programme, applicants must meet the following basic criteria:

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  • Be enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program in physics, engineering, mathematics or computer science at a university.
  • Have completed at least two years of studies towards their bachelor’s degree or be a graduate student by the start of the programme.
  • Be proficient in spoken and written English (CERN’s working language). Proficiency in French is a plus but not required.
  • Be eligible to travel and work in Switzerland according to Swiss visa regulations. Citizens of EU/EFTA countries do not require a visa.
  • Have a strong academic record. The minimum GPA requirement is typically a B average or higher. Realistically, successful candidates often have a GPA of 3.5/4.0 or higher.
  • Demonstrate enthusiasm and aptitude for research through their application documents and references.

While the core prerequisites focus on academia, CERN also values diversity and considers non-traditional experiences. Skills like coding, open-source contributions and extracurricular projects can strengthen an application too. The vetting process aims to select students who will thrive in an international research environment.

Application Process and Timeline For CERN Summer Student Programme

Applying for the CERN Summer Student Programme is competitive, so it’s important to plan ahead and submit a polished application. Here’s a typical timeline for the 2024 intake:

  • Fall 2023: The application portal opens. Use this time to research projects, gather recommendations, draft statements, etc.
  • Mid-December 2023: Application deadline for non-EU/EFTA nationals requiring a visa. Earlier submission advised.
  • Mid-January 2024: Rollover deadline for all other applicants.
  • February-March 2024: Shortlisted candidates may be contacted for interviews (conducted online or in-person at CERN).
  • April-May 2024: Offers are extended and accepted on a rolling basis as projects are filled.
  • June 2024: The 12-week summer programme begins.

The online application involves uploading academic transcripts and language certifications, writing short statements of purpose and interest, and providing contact details for two references. Highly motivated candidates often contact potential advisors beforehand to discuss potential research fit.

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Research Areas and Projects

CERN oversees a truly vast range of cutting-edge physics research spread across numerous departments. Summer students get to participate directly in these efforts by contributing to specific projects. Some of the major research domains involved include:

Accelerator Physics and Engineering

Operating the Large Hadron Collider and its infrastructure demands extensive work in areas like magnets, RF systems, cryogenics, vacuum and more. Students may assist with maintenance, commissioning, instrumentation or simulations.


Keeping petabytes of LHC data flowing requires expertise in software development, high performance computing, machine learning, data science and related fields. Cloud, grid and HPC systems present opportunities.

Detector Research and Engineering

Each LHC detector collaboration oversees vast research programs involving thousands of scientists. Students aid with detector construction, upgrades, operations and data analysis using technologies like silicon sensors, calorimeters and muon systems.

Theoretical Physics

While experiments are CERN’s focus, theory remains crucial for progress. Students participate in efforts to further understand fundamental forces, particles, strings, extra dimensions and more through computation and mathematics.

Accelerator and Particle Physics

More broadly, projects span particle identification, cross-section measurements, new physics searches, standard model tests and beyond. Interdisciplinary initiatives merge theory, experiment, computing and engineering expertise.

By browsing ongoing research summaries, students can identify mentor scientists working on topics matching their interests to discuss potential collaborations. It’s never too early to reach out and find the perfect pairing.

Research Environment and Support

Once accepted into the programme, students are fully integrated into the research community at CERN. Here are some key things to know about the student experience:

Research Advisor: Each student is assigned a research advisor, usually a PhD-level scientist in their chosen research area, who guides the project and provides mentoring.

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Workspace: Dedicated lab or office space is provided based on the project needs, along with any required safety training or certifications.

Collaboration: Students work closely with their advisor and other scientists/engineers on their team while networking across the larger collaboration.

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Reports: Students are expected to provide regular progress updates, internally document their work, and potentially contribute to publications.

Skills Training: Workshops offer skills development in areas like software engineering practices, prototyping and more to maximize learning.

Social Activities: Plentiful social events help students form bonds with fellow scholars from diverse backgrounds and explore Switzerland.

Support Offices: Dedicated summer student coordinators and international staff welcome students and are available for any issues that arise.

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With world-class facilities, experts in every field and a collegial culture, CERN truly immerses students in top-tier scientific research. It’s an experience that can launch scientific careers.

Accommodation and Cost of Living

CERN provides fully furnished accommodation on-site or in surrounding communities to summer students. The two main options are:

CERN Residences: Modern studio apartments include a kitchenette and bathroom. Located on the Meyrin main site, they put students right in the center of CERN activities.

Apartments in Prévessin: For those preferring more independence, apartments in the nearby French town of Prévessin come furnished with dedicated bedrooms and share common spaces/kitchens.

A monthly stipend of 2,000 CHF is given to all students to cover living costs like meals, transportation and incidentals. This generous amount is more than enough thanks to Switzerland’s reasonable prices. Meals can be purchased for around 5-10 CHF each from subsidized student cafeterias on-site.

While expenses like flights to/from Geneva and leisure activities are not covered, the stipend and free housing make the financial aspect very manageable for students of any economic background to participate.

Big CERN Summer Student Programme Questions- Answered

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the CERN Summer Student Programme:

How competitive is it to get accepted?

On average, only about 15-20% of applicants are selected each year. With 50-60 projects and 100 spots total, strong candidates in areas of need have the best odds. Early applications and networking help.

What if my English is good but not perfect?

Communication is key at CERN, but mistakes won’t disqualify applicants. Demonstrating a willingness to learn and overall suitability weighs more than isolated language issues.

Could I get matched with my top choice project?

While advisors review interests, final project assignments also consider balance across departments and nationality quotas. Flexibility increases chances for something engaging.

What if my visa application is delayed?

Non-EU applicants needing visas should apply well before deadlines, however CERN accommodates delays when possible by deferring to the next intake if a student cannot start on time.

Could this lead to PhD opportunities?

Absolutely. Many summer researchers transition directly to CERN PhD positions or get strong recommendation letters for top physics graduate programs elsewhere. It’s a great way to kickstart a career.

Is it okay to contact potential advisors?

It’s recommended and shows initiative. Just be polite

About the author


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