Experiences from the CERN openlab Summer Student Programme 2017

Experiences from the CERN openlab Summer Student Programme 2017

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Today I will share some of my experiences from my summer internship at CERN. This blog post was originally posted on the Databases at CERN blog.

I got the happy message that I was selected for the CERN openlab Summer Student
Programme 2017 while eating some amazing Korean BBQ on an excursion in South Korea with my Informatics classmates from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). My classmates and I knew very well that CERN was a highly prestigious research center. I did not expect to be selected, so, I got very surprised and excited when I got the email saying that my application was successful.

My first encounter with the name CERN was during my childhood when my father was telling stories around the dinner table about his work at CERN. He was actually a Physics Summer Student at CERN in 1986 and afterward, he worked at CERN on the DELPHI project in relation to his Ph.D. in Physics. My father was always speaking about his summer at CERN with so much joy and excitement. I was inspired by my father’s stories about this fascinating place, and ever since then, it was a dream of mine to someday get the opportunity to work at CERN myself.

So, you might understand that I was very excited about the upcoming summer, but I was also quite nervous.

The fact that I was going to a foreign country, not knowing a single soul and working alongside (what I consider as) genius researchers for 9 weeks, was honestly a scary thought in the beginning. But of course, this was also what made it extra thrilling and exciting. Lucikly, it turned out to be one of the best experiences and summers of my life!


My Experiences from the Programme

In the programme, we were 37 CERN openlab Summer Students from 22 different countries.
All of us were living together in an apartment hostel in the town of St. Genis Pouilly in France
right across the border from Switzerland. During the 9 weeks, we became nearly like a family
and got inside jokes, funny memories and experiences together. We shared stories about the
interesting people, the miraculously always sunny weather, the swims in the lakes and the
outdoor swimming pools, and the cool trips to nearby cities and countryside.

Every morning we were biking together over to Switzerland on our CERN bikes, and we were meeting up for lunch and had BBQs, played football and made amazing spicy Indian food in our spare time. We also had some fantastic weekend trips, traveling around in Switzerland, France and Italy. For instance, enjoying the Jazz Festival in Montreux, and visiting the Gruyere Cheese – and the Cailler Chocolate Factory.

During the summer I also got a renewed interest for hiking, thanks to all the beautiful hikes in Interlaken, the Jura Mountains and hikes with views of the Mont Blanc in Chamonix!

This is just a few of the nice memories from the summer, but what I want to highlight from the stay is the cool and unique opportunity to get new friends and colleagues from all across the world and learn about their lives and cultures.

Photo: Purcell, Andrew Robert

As you may understand from this, the CERN openlab Summer Student Programme is so
much more than just a normal summer job. During the summer there were also arranged
BBQs for the summer students by the IT-department, and we got the opportunity to visit the
CERN experiments and accelerators.

For instance, we got to visit ATLAS and the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS), which are detectors at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

We also were very lucky to go to Zurich to visit Open Systems, ETH and last but not least, Google. It was a very interesting and exciting experience!

My CERN openlab Summer Student Project

But now over to the technical part of the programme.

During the programme, I was working in the IT-DB-IMS group which is the Information
Technologies and Database Department at CERN. The objective of my project was to
refactor an application called the DB Rota Tool, which is a web application for scheduling the support activities for the CERN IT-DB-IMS group. It is based on a technology called Oracle APEX or Oracle Application Express. As the name states, it is a technology that allows you to develop applications quickly. But it has some disadvantages, for example, that it is highly tightened to the database and it is not modular.

The main goal of my project was to make a new web application by improving the user
experience and make it modular, portable and open to extensions. The project is based on a
collaboration between CERN openlab and Oracle. Therefore, the project focused on testing,
evaluation and providing feedback about some of the latest Oracle technologies and
frameworks, as well as contribute to the Oracle Community.

In my project, I was developing the new web application using Oracle JET and Oracle ORDS.
Oracle JET stands for Oracle JavaScript Extension Toolkit, and it is an open source
JavaScript framework which is very good for developing hybrid applications (Oracle 2017).
The Oracle ORDS stands for Oracle Rest Data Services and it is a java application that
maps HTTP verbs to database transactions.

When we put the two technologies together we see that they are quite easily combined and
they have many advantages as shown in the figure below (See Figure 2). The Oracle JET is
open source and it makes your application modular, portable and open to extensions (Oracle
2017). The Oracle ORDS is simple and it allows you to expose a rest API with nearly zero
code (Oracle 2017).

An extra challenging and interesting part of the project was that the framework Oracle JET
is not the most widely used. This meant that it was not very easy to find answers to issues
through for example stack overflow.

If you search for Oracle JET in Stack Overflow you get 188 results and if you search for Angular you get 66000. This is quite a significant difference.

We figured out that the best place to find answers to our questions were in the Oracle JET Community Forums and in the Oracle JET Documentation. The people in the Oracle JET Community were very helpful and responded quickly.

Another nice place to find tips and tricks for making your first Oracle JET application was the Oracle JET MOOC, which stands for Massive Open Online Course. It was a good site to start to learn about the framework and its features. Throughout the project, we focused on providing feedback and contribute to the Oracle Community, and it allowed us to test, evaluate and learn about many different Oracle Technologies.

The programme has given me new and valuable experiences and knowledge from full cycle web development with both analyzing and getting the user requirements, as well as development, testing, security, continuous integration and deployment. I also got to attend interesting and relevant IT lectures given by experts in their fields, as well as giving presentations about my project in a 5 minutes long CERN openlab Summer Student Lightning Talk, and a 20 minutes long presentation for the IT-DB group. It was a nice and interesting learning experience to hold technical presentations for large groups of people!

If you are interested in more details about my project, you can take a look at my CERN openlab Summer Student Report at https://zenodo.org/record/1034094


TO SUM UP

To end, I want to express my sincere thanks to my supervisor Luis Rodríguez Fernández and the IT-DB-IMS team for giving me helpful tips and insights on my project, and making me feel very welcome during my two months as a Summer Student at CERN. As well I want to thank CERN openlab and Oracle for giving me the opportunity to join the international environment at CERN, and work on interesting and challenging topics. I have gotten valuable experiences and knowledge that I can use in my future studies and career. The programme has also given me many good memories and friends from all around the world.

I am very grateful for the opportunity and I truly recommend it for others! The programme exceeded all my expectations, and it has been an amazing and memorable summer!

Photo: Purcell, Andrew Robert

If you have any questions or comments about the project or about my experiences from the
programme, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. I will be happy to answer!

Cheers,
Rebekka Alvsvåg

 

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References:

1. Rebekka Alvsvåg. Oracle Resftul Data Services & Oracle JET, https://zenodo.org/record/1034094(link is external)

2. Oracle (2017). “What is JET?”. Retrieved 05.09.2017, from
http://www.oracle.com/webfolder/technetwork/jet/index.html. (link is external)

3. Oracle (2017). “Oracle JET Online Training Course.” Retrieved 05.09.2017, from
http://www.oracle.com/webfolder/technetwork/jet/globalExamples-Course.html(link is external).

4. Oracle (2017). “Oracle ORDS Logo.” Retrieved 09.08.2017, from
http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/developer-tools/rest-data-services/dat…(link is external)
2373780.png.

5. Oracle (2017). “Oracle REST Data Services.” Retrieved 05.09.2017, from

http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/developer-tools/rest-data-(link is external)
services/overview/index.html.

6. Oracle (2017). “Oracle JET Logo.” Retrieved 09.08.2017, from
https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/656652222512521216/kj3zG0jH.png(link is external).

7. Purcell, A. R. (07-07-2017 ). “CERN openlab summer students 2017 group photo.”
Retrieved 11.09.2017, from https://cds.cern.ch/record/2274930.

8.  “Photo, Oracle Jet Plane.” Retrieved 08.08.2017, from https://www.tmns.com/wp-(link is external)
content/uploads/2016/03/Oracle-JET-and-Oracle-Mobile-Cloud.jpg


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