Every year in the Italian Alps, the renowned Tonale Cosmology Winter School takes place. This school brings together PhD students, Master’s students, and Post-docs in Cosmology from across the world, allowing them to share ideas and informing them of the state-of-the-art. One of our first year PhD’s, Anurag Deshpande, was fortunate enough to attend. He reports back on the school.
The journey up to Passo del Tonale is long and arduous. I had to fly to Milan, then take a two-hour train to Verona, then another hour-long train journey to Trento, followed finally by a coach ride lasting two hours. The views when we reached the mountain, however, made it all worth it.
A view from Tonale. Credit – A. Deshpande
The school itself lasted for four days, consisting of four different lecture series; each tackling a key area of modern cosmology. Benjamin Joachimi (UCL) delivered lectures on Weak Lensing and Large-Scale Structure, Alkistis Pourtsidou (Queen Mary’s) spoke about the 21cm line of Hydrogen, Enrico Barausse (IAP) gave sessions on black hole mergers and their relation to LIGO, and Michelle Lochner (AIMS) taught us about Machine Learning.
The lectures, aimed at a relatively introductory level, were all insightful and well delivered. Aside from shoring up my knowledge of my own field, weak lensing, they also informed me of some of the recent success in, and challenges facing other areas of Cosmology. In fact, the lectures also helped me gain insights into my own research. The open and relatively casual atmosphere of the school was also a benefit, as it allowed for direct interaction with the speakers.
In addition to the lectures, there were also multiple working groups, each with activities centred around one of the lecture themes. In this way, we were able to gain more specific knowledge of our chosen area. Of particular interest to me was the Weak Lensing working group. Within this group, we explored the approaches taken by various different surveys, and why these approaches were taken. This activity helped me understand some of the nuances of the Weak Lensing data I work with.
Icy ski slopes. Credit – A. Deshpande
Also worth stressing are the international links I made at the school. There were participants from as far afield as India and Japan, alongside those from all across Europe. I had the chance to meet other students working in similar areas to me and trade information, potentially even leading to collaborations in the future. Extended discussion sessions, including all the participants, on the state of science were also held.
The school proved not only to encourage training of the mind, but also the body. Given that we were in the Italian Alps, a few of us also attempted to Ski in the breaks. I had never skied before, and the introduction to that was not as gentle as to the Cosmology. Still, the trip proved to be a rewarding experience in this regard too.
By the end of the week, I was exhausted, both physically and mentally. However, I was immensely grateful for the opportunity to attend the school, as I learned things there that I am convinced will influence my research going forward. Great credit must go to the organisers; they have managed to put together a school that is highly recommended to any early-career Cosmologists. And the location’s not too bad either.