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Eye witness report from the Plasma Diagnostics course in Lausanne, Switzerland, part 1

FUSENET sponsors the Plasma Diagnostics course in Lausanne, Switzerland. The course gives students the opportunity to get acquainted with a variety of plasma diagnostics. One of the students present, Owen Jones, reports:

DAY 2: Tuesday 31st January
At the end of the second day of the CRPP plasma diagnostics course at EPFL, we are still struggling to assimilate the torrent of information on Langmuir probes and magnetic diagnostics which has come our way since yesterday morning. The class is currently split into three groups; two of these groups are at the site of TORPEX (CRPP's basic plasma physics device), and one is in the spacious computer room/lecture theatre in which the majority of our classes are held. This is the first of the Practica, in which we put the lectured material into practice. In rotation, one group is getting to grips with running experiments and acquiring data from TORPEX, one group is calibrating a magnetic measurement coil similar to those used on TCV, and the third group is grappling with some pen-and-paper derivations relevant to Langmuir probes while sneakily checking Facebook/writing this blog.
Our three instructors; Ivo, Holger and Benoit, do their best to field the myriad questions coming their way from the diverse group of students. There are participants with backgrounds in engineering; experimental and theoretical physics; and numerical modeling. Despite this variety, or perhaps because of it, the course runs smoothly. Lectures tend to last about an hour and a half, leaving plenty of time for questions in the timetabled two-hour slots. The early starts necessitate plenty of coffee breaks, and the atmosphere is congenial and informal. There is plenty of guidance from instructors and resident EPFL students, so we never feel lost; we are shepherded to lunch, which is taken in a canteen-style restaurant in one of the institute's buildings, but we are also free to wander at our leisure about the extensive EPFL site.

A scattering of snow lies on the ground, but the superb public transport system of Lausanne unfailingly whisks us between university, hostel and town centre in a matter of minutes. So far, I would not hesitate to recommend the course to anyone with an interest in plasma diagnostic techniques. Although my own background is in spectroscopy, which is not covered in any detail during this programme, I nonetheless find much of value to take away from the lectures and demonstrations. The relaxed atmosphere may come as a relief to those who are used to the hectic schedules of various summer schools and workshops. Even so, there is plenty to occupy us each day...