I first refused the internship offer at CERN, Pavel Hilšer says
What do cartilage lubrication, formula and particle accelerator have in common? Nothing, but even so, Pavel Hilšer focuses on all these areas. Although he only completed his master's degree at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering last year, his ambitions and the elan with which he embarks on unexplored areas are admirable. He is currently developing a source of anti-electrons for the successor to the particle accelerator at CERN in Switzerland, and is planning to study economics in London in the autumn.
"I've been hyperactive since I was a child, but over time I've made an advantage of it. I learned to work with it, so I can do pharmacology and biotribology at the same time, particle physics and build formulas for that,” Pavel Hilšer says with exaggeration. Exaggeration, however, is only partial, when Pavel Hilšer is enthusiastic about something, he goes for it. "Before writing my diploma, I didn't know anything about proteins or cartilage, but I sat down and read biology textbooks for days. Similarly, I started after joining CERN, where my task is to build a source of anti-electrons, but I didn't know what an anti-electron is," he adds with a laugh.
He joined the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at BUT after studying electrical engineering at a secondary school. According to him, he enjoyed engineering because you could touch things. Already during his studies, he joined the TU Brno Racing team, which builds a monopost formula every year and then competes with it – very successfully – at international Formula Student races. This activity later proved to be one of the things that opened the door to the world of top science at CERN.
He chose the Institute of Machine and Industrial Design to study at FME. He was fascinated by their approach to diploma theses, which may result in a professional article. "Because I was interested in medicine in my youth and my girlfriend was studying pharmacology, I chose a biotribology topic for my diploma, where the processes of friction, wear and lubrication in living organisms are studied. Specifically, I focused on friction and lubrication of articular cartilage," Hilšer explains.
Not only did he successfully defend his diploma, but his professional article was published in the renowned journal Biotribology. In his writing, he collaborated with colleagues from the Czech Technical University and the University of Cambridge. "Basically, we found that when phospholipids are added to a viscosupplement, they make an extra layer on the cartilage that is both strong and low-friction, protecting the cartilage from wear. It is another piece to the scientific puzzle that could contribute to improving the treatment of patients with osteoarthritis in the future," Hilšer believes.
In the summer of 2020, after defending his diploma, Pavel Hilšer wanted to go on a summer internship. He sent out CV where he could, even to Formula 1. His phone rang. They called from CERN. "It was the head of one department, he said that he liked my CV and that they would not take me for a summer internship, because it is only for four months, but they offer me a student internship for a whole year. I immediately refused, wondering what I would do for a year at CERN. Only after I hung up did I realize what he was actually offering me. It scrapped in my head for about three days before I called him back and accepted the offer," Hilšer describes his journey to one of the most prestigious scientific workplaces in the world.
Of course, he didn't win just by the phone call, he still had an interview. He took advantage of everything he devoted himself to as a student. "They especially liked two things: that as a fresh engineer I would have published a professional article, which is not common, and my activities in the student formula. The BUT formula team belongs to the TOP 10 teams in the world, so when I described to them what things I did on the formula, such as 3D scanning or advanced FEM simulations of the formula frame, they were excited,” Hilšer says.
At CERN, he works on a source of positrons, or if you want antielectrons, for the so-called Future Circular Collider. In thirty years, it is to replace the current Large Hadron Collider, the famous twenty-seven-kilometre tunnel under Lake Geneva, which serves as the largest particle accelerator in the world. The new generation accelerator that Pavel Hilšer is working on should be three times larger and will work with eight times more energy. With its help, scientists will study phenomena such as dark matter, dark energy, validation of the state model of the atom and the beginnings of the universe.
Pavel Hilšer joined the first phases of the development of new technologies for the accelerator of the future. In a team of physicists, he and his colleagues are trying to create the first design and then a prototype of a device that will be able to emit positrons or antiparticles of electrons using tungsten atoms. But before the development reaches the prototype, Pavel Hilšer will probably no longer be at CERN. After sniffing the environment of startups and innovations in the Czech Republic and Switzerland, he was attracted to business and plans to join University College London from September, where he was accepted into the Engineering and Finance course. "Maybe I'll move into the world of banking, where there is a lot of interest in physicists, mathematicians and engineers – just people who are mentally fit to find new solutions to problems," Hilšer concludes. In his case, however, predicting the future does not pay off. Maybe in time he will be seduced by another field.