How to work at Jülich in a nutshell

Working at Jülich might seem an easy task for the inexperienced student. However, it is one of the most difficult challenges that one can face. It is impossible to keep track of how many students have tried, innocent as they were, to work happily here thinking that they were prepared for it and then ended up crying alone in the darkest corner. Far from discouraging, this guide tries to gather all the experience from a student, who is currently surviving by eating pasta and pizza, so that future PRACE applicants know what they have to prepare for.

First things first, here you have the Jülich Supercomputing Center rules:

  1. You don’t talk about Jülich Supercomputing Center.
  2. You DON’T talk about Jülich Supercomputing Center.
  3. Sleep is for the weak.
  4. The only true Trinity is LaTeX/Tikz/PGFPlot.
  5. There is never enough coffee.

Before getting started you will need one single tool: a table tennis racket. The procedure to get it is quite simple: make your supervisor order one, then wait for it to arrive and go to the closest DHL Packstation (see Figure 1). That will be your main weapon at JSC so do not go for a cheap one. A few years ago, people used pistols in duels; table tennis is a more practical way of solving conflicts but it can be even more painful. If you don’t believe me, ask Ivo about his backhand push signature strike. Legends say that Andreas played aggressively once, but now he is characterized by his extremely defensive style, watch out.

IMG-20150723-WA0010IMG-20150723-WA0012IMG-20150723-WA0019Figure 1. Steps to get a table tennis racket. Up: the DHL Packstation. Middle: Looks like there is a packet for you. Bottom: Your deadly weapon, you should give it a name to scare the rivals.

Now that you have a good racket you might have one chance to survive, don’t be too happy yet.  The first thing you should do in the morning is meet your coordinator (see Figure 2). He will ask you about the progress you made the day before and will probably try to test your strength. Remember, remain strong and do not let him crush your conclusions. The best defense is a good offense (see Figure 3). If you are successful he will provide good advice and more work to do, and free coffee if you are lucky enough.

20150730_182257Figure 2. The site coordinator ZAM828927556286, always bitter.


Figure 3. Offensive style always wins, replace sword with table tennis racket.

No one has figured out why the coffe machine (sorry, the site coordinator) decided to give himself the name 828927556286 (comments are welcome to try to decipher this riddle). Maybe the supercomputer figured out that HAL9000 wasn’t the best name at all.

If you have survived this encounter, you will be able to take a look at the office and check the incredible sense of humour of your cold-hearted site coordinator (see Figure 4). However, only the chosen ones will get the jokes, they are not meant for peasants.

20150730_191336 20150730_191433 20150730_051100

 Figure 4. Running jokes, hint: you can play Hell Tetris for free!

Now you are free to work and research on your favourite topic and do some satisfying progress for mankind. But first you have to find your room which is not particularly easy given the floor plan. This is a taste of what you will find there

Some people are still trapped in the building because they don’t even know how to exit (VI or VIM users can relate). After a few years you might be able to find your room and start to work with a 3D printed Einstein head presiding over your place (see Figure 5).

20150708_161850 20150728_154838

Figure 5. Einstein and your fellow slaves, I mean students.

Then you can start turning caffeine and pizza into useful stuff, which will eventually lead to beautiful figures, plots (see Figure 6 and Figure 7) and even sometimes working code which is pushed to Git without having pulled before, and seriously…who knows anything about merging? That’s crazy stuff…

tikz_blog1 tikz_blog2Figure 6. Look me in the eyes and tell me that those aren’t the most beautiful Figures on Earth. And what if I told you that they are 100% generated by code? And what if I told you that they can be done in an Object-Oriented manner?


Figure 7. Houston we have a problem. Can anybody explain the strange slope between p=15 and p=20?

Here you can see a live footage of Roy Batty’s reaction after finding out what can be done with LaTeX/Tikz/PGFPlot:

After finishing all the work, you should go to your supervisor and show him THE GRAPH, AKA the most ancient trick to give the illusion of having done a week’s worth of work. This term was coined by the infamous Mike Slackenery (see Figure 8). He is best known for winning the Best Visualization Award with a completely useless but eye-catching graph.

phd0213Figure 8. Slackenery’s trick.

If all went well you will have to pass a final test: the table tennis match. To be honest, it doesn’t matter whether your code is correct or not, or even if your results could be published in a top scientific journal. It all comes down to a best of five matchs to test your might. Figure 9 shows Andreas about to execute his unstoppable service while Ivo is happily waiting to hit with an easy forehand drive (he had no clue what was going to happen).

IMG-20150729-WA0001Figure 9. Researchers at work, doing some field experiments to check the correctness of the Fast Multipole Method applied to simulate the effect of air particles on a tennis table ball spin.

After pushing the limits of knowledge a step further, you will have earned a well deserved dinner at Cortes where eating a double burger and driking good beer are mandatory requirements to be considered a man. Figure 10 shows a rookie about to become a true JSC student.

20150725_211436Figure 10. The mighty double burger and an exhausted table tennis player, notice the beard after three weeks of non-stop research.

(This post is a complete lie and it was meant to be funny. We are working hard all day long. Despite furious efforts of many external agents, we do work and research instead of writing blog posts. No scientists were hurt during the writing of this story.)


zam828927556286 (what does the number mean?????)


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One comment on “How to work at Jülich in a nutshell
  1. Juraj says:

    hahaha brilliant! 🙂

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