Collision course


Bearing witness to the start-up of the Large Hadron Collider (take two) is something most can only imagine. For one third-year Monash multimedia student it is a dream come true.

Phil Owen

Berwick campus information technology student Phil Owen admits he's a bit of a technology tragic. He loves computers and animation. He is also endlessly fascinated by the kind of 'Big Science' questions that preoccupy physicists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (or CERN), in Switzerland.

So when he heard about an international multimedia competition that married his twin passions, Phil jumped at the opportunity. "I didn't expect to win, but the contest was appealing to me for obvious reasons. It gave me the chance to use my multimedia skills to communicate scientific ideas relating to the LHC project," Phil said.

The 25-year-old spent his entire mid-semester break working on his entry - a four-minute animation film called The Origins of Mass - and stayed awake for three nights in a row to finish it in the nick of time. His efforts paid off, earning him first place and praise from the judges for his clear narration and clean 2D and 3D graphics.

And that's not all he's won. The aspiring science documentary filmmaker's talent for visually translating the complexities of big-bang science have earned him a threemonth internship at CERN's Geneva base.

Phil will be there for the momentous re-starting of the Hadron Collider in late 2009. This event involves the engineering of multiple head-on collisions between sub-atomic particles that will, it is hoped, re-create the moments after the big bang and unlock the secrets of the universe.

As the multimedia intern for this ambitious and complex experiment, Phil will work alongside a team of scientists as they hunt down the holy grail of physics and potentially revolutionise our understanding of matter and the origins of the universe.

He will have the job of creating a multimedia presentation of the experiment that will help communicate the significance of the experiment to the broader public.

Phil's success builds upon the experience he gained working on internal Monash projects earlier this year, including the Virtual Practice Environment for the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

After his adventure in Europe, Phil is hoping to carve out a career in science communication and documentary film. With most multimedia types being more into games and cartoon animations than particle physics, he thinks there is a niche market waiting to be filled by a scientifically-minded multimedia expert.

"I am absolutely thrilled to get the chance to be involved with such a significant, historic event," he said. "I had some other plans for next year, but I don't mind putting them on hold for such an amazing opportunity."

Science and multimedia enthusiasts around the world, eat your heart out.