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Cornell University School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions

Study tours

CERN, Einstein, and Art: A Rare Insider's Tour

October 12-19, 2019

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Outside Geneva, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, is home to the world's most powerful particle accelerator—the Large Hadron Collider.

Every several years the collider is shut down for enhancements and visitors are allowed underground. We will take advantage of the 2019 shutdown to descend five stories for a close-up view of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) detector, one of the most sophisticated pieces of scientific equipment in the history of mankind.

While in Switzerland, we will learn about the dawn of modern physics and Albert Einstein's work, especially in Bern, where he developed his Theory of Relativity, which revolutionized the way we think about space and time today and culminated in the greatest engineering project of all time, the LHC.

One of our two faculty leaders for this rare and wonderful opportunity is Cornell physicist Julia Thom-Levy, who, with the Cornell's High Energy Physics group, is currently designing and constructing an upgrade to the piece at the heart of CMS, a multi-million channel radiation-resistant silicon pixel camera, to be flown to CERN for the Large Hadron Collider upgrade.

Our second leader is physicist Stephen Levy, who has done groundbreaking work in experimental particle physics at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.

Throughout this insider's tour, our faculty leaders will share our adventures and present lectures: Stephen Levy on Einstein and the Theory of Relativity and Julia Thom-Levy on CERN as a cathedral of science and on Cornell's role in its technological enhancements and experiments.

In addition, we'll also visit art museums to see works of Swiss artists, including those of Paul Klee, son of Bern. Along the way, we'll explore Chillon Castle and relish a variety of Swiss delights, from fondue to chocolate to delicious Swiss wines.

Julia Thom-Levy

Julia Thom-Levy, professor of physics at Cornell, received a PhD in physics from the University of Hamburg, Germany. Thom-Levy has developed instrumentation and operated detectors at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago, and at... > more

Stephen Levy

Stephen Levy, associate professor of physics at SUNY Binghamton, did groundbreaking work in experimental particle physics at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.... > more

2019 Lecture slides

Program notes

  • Download the program brochure and itinerary
  • Double occupancy: $7,990
  • Single supplement: $990
  • Regarding the CERN tour, CERN's safety rules exclude pregnant women, children under 16 years, persons with ferromagnetic implants (such as pacemakers), and persons with severe claustrophobia or vertigo from the underground visit to the CMS detector. These restrictions apply only to the underground portion of the visit; the main exhibits at CERN, Visitors' Center and gift shop are not restricted.
  • See What's included?
  • See Travel links and resources.
  • Activity level: Slightly strenuous. May require extended walking over uneven ground as well as the ability to climb stairs and to stand for considerable periods of time.

Preliminary itinerary

Saturday, October 12: Depart the U.S.

Sunday, October 13: Zurich

Arrive at Zurich International Airport. A transfer will be provided to our hotel in the heart of Zurich. Travelers arriving early in the day may opt to join an afternoon excursion to the Kunsthaus modern art museum to view its large and comprehensive collection of Swiss art, or may choose to spend the afternoon at leisure to relax. This evening, you will gather with your fellow travelers and faculty leaders at a welcome reception of wine and cheese.


Monday, October 14: Zurich

Following breakfast and a welcome orientation at the hotel, we will depart on a walking tour that follows in the footsteps of Albert Einstein. We'll visit the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) campus, where Einstein studied and taught. Specializing in natural sciences, engineering, and technology, ETH Zurich has produced 21 Nobel Prize winners. We will enjoy a relaxing afternoon boat ride on the River Limmat. Dinner will be on your own this evening.


Tuesday, October 15: Bern

After breakfast, we will depart Zurich for Bern by charter bus. We will take a guided walking tour of the Old City, the best preserved historic town center in Switzerland and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our tour includes a visit to the former residence of Albert Einstein, the Einsteinhaus, which houses the Einstein Museum. In the afternoon we will explore Zentrum Paul Klee. Designed by Renzo Piano, this architectural gem houses the largest collection of Klee's works in the world. In the evening, we will dine as a group at the adjacent and acclaimed Restaurant Schöngrün.


Wednesday, October 16: Geneva

In the morning, we will travel by charter bus to Geneva. Following a traditional Raclette luncheon in Gruyeres, we will spend the afternoon at Chillon Castle. For nearly four centuries this medieval castle, perched on a rocky islet along the shores of Lake Geneva, was the residence and profitable toll station of the Counts of Savoy. You will see wall paintings from the 14th century and explore the parade halls and subterranean vaults dating back to the time of Bernese rule. Afterwards, we'll check in at the hotel, located in the center of Geneva facing the quiet Mont Blanc Square, only a few steps from Lake Geneva. Dinner this evening is on your own.


Thursday, October 17: Geneva

After breakfast, we will enjoy a full day excursion beginning with a guided visit of the Musée d'Histoire des Sciences. Located in Perle du Lac Park and housed in Villa Bartholoni, one of Geneva's most beautiful neo-classical buildings, this museum traces Geneva's rich scientific past. Following lunch at Auberge de L'Onde in St. Saphorin, we will tour the grounds and enjoy a private wine tasting at Clos des Abbayes, a historic estate from the 11th century not open to the public. The evening is free to explore Geneva.


Friday, October 18: Geneva

In the morning, we will head to CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, the world's largest particle physics laboratory and one of the most sophisticated centers of scientific research. Special arrangements have been made for a private, guided tour and exclusive behind-the-scenes presentation of CERN. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the most powerful instrument ever built to investigate the properties of particles. We will descend underground for an up-close exploration of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) detector, which uses a huge magnet to bend the paths of particles traveling at the speed of light as they collide head-on. Cornell's High Energy Physics group, which includes Julia Thom-Levy, conducts experiments using the CMS detector. The group is leading efforts to upgrade the CMS experiment, in part by redesigning and replacing the piece at the heart of the detector. Their current plan is to construct the piece in Ithaca and transport it to CERN for installation in 2024. It will be extraordinary to descend underground to see the CMS with Julia herself. Afterwards, we will savor the morning experience over lunch at the famed Domaine de Châteauvieux, awarded two Michelin stars and overlooking the breathtaking Rhône Valley.


Saturday, October 19: Depart Switzerland

Enjoy breakfast before checking out of the hotel. A transfer to Geneva International Airport for return flights to the U.S. is included. (B)