New director for Los Alamos

Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in the US has appointed a new director – the 11th in the laboratory’s nearly 75 year history. Terry Wallace, who holds higher degrees in geophysics from Caltech and previously was principal associate director for global security, took up the role on 1 January, replacing Charlie McMillan. Wallace is an expert in forensic seismology and an international authority on the detection and quantification of nuclear tests. He will oversee a budget of around $2.5 billion, employees and contractors numbering nearly 12,000, and a 36-square-mile site of scientific laboratories, nuclear facilities, experimental capabilities, administration buildings and utilities. “I am honoured and humbled to be leading LANL,” he said.

DPG elects next president

The board of directors of the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft (DPG) has elected Dieter Meschede of the University of Bonn as its next president, beginning in April. Meschede takes over from former CERN Director-General Rolf-Dieter Heuer, who will assume the DPG vice presidency, and the position will last for two years. Meschede is group leader of the quantum technologies group at Bonn, with interests including quantum information processing and fibre-cavity QED. The DPG, which has around 62,000 members, selects successors more than a year before the end of the term of office of the acting president to familiarise them with the complex role.

Change of spokespersons at Pierre Auger

The international Pierre Auger Observatory has elected Ralph Engel and Antonella Castellina as spokesperson and co-spokesperson, respectively. Engel is senior scientist and currently acting director of the Institute for Nuclear Physics at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, with research interests including ultra-high-energy cosmic rays and neutrinos. Castellina is senior scientist at the National Institute of Astrophysics in Torino, Italy, and an associate at the INFN, and her current research work focuses on cosmic-ray composition and hadronic interactions at ultra high energy, in addition to detector development. Started in 2000 and located in the Argentinian Pampa, the Auger Observatory has shown that cosmic rays with energies above 8 × 1018 eV are of extra-galactic origin. To probe the sources of such events further, the facility is undergoing a major upgrade of its surface stations.

Mark Thomson set to head up UK research council

Experimental particle physicist Mark Thomson of the University of Cambridge has been appointed executive chair of the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), beginning 1 April. Thomson, who will succeed current chief-executive Brian Bowsher, has interests in a number of areas, including collider physics and neutrinos. He is currently co-spokesperson for the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), the prototype detector modules of which are being developed at CERN, and was instrumental in securing a recent £65 million UK investment in the US-based facility. His term as co-spokesperson of DUNE ends in March.

The position of executive chair of STFC, which funds UK research in particle physics, astrophysics and nuclear physics, has been created following a major reorganisation of the UK’s research administration. Bringing together the UK’s seven existing research councils and two others (Innovate UK and Research England) from April this year, the UK’s science spend will be overseen by a single body called UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Recently appointed UK minister for higher education, Sam Gyimah, said: “Boosting research and development is at the heart of our modern industrial strategy and the role of executive chairs for the research councils will have a fundamental role in not only setting the priorities for their particular areas of interest, but of UKRI as a whole.”

Sackler Prize for work on quantum field theory

Zohar Komargodski from the Weizmann Institute, Israel, and the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics, US, and Pedro Vieira from the Perimeter Institute, Canada and the ICTP-SAIFR, Brazil, have been awarded the 2018 Raymond and Beverly Sackler International Prize in Physics for their outstanding work probing quantum field theory (QFT) in non-perturbative regimes. The prize amount of $100,000 will be split evenly between the two laureates.

Komargodski is recognized for insights that have shed light on many aspects of QFT, including renormalisation group flows, dualities and phase structure, conformal field theories, and effective field theories for broken supersymmetry and long strings. Vieira is awarded the prize for bringing the power of integrability to bear on a variety of observables in N = 4 supersymmetric Yang–Mills QFT, including operator anomalous dimensions and correlation functions, Wilson loops and scattering amplitudes, as well as for developing a new S-matrix approach to constraining amplitudes in massive QFTs.

Emmy Noether distinction

On 1 December the spring–summer 2017 Emmy Noether distinction for women in physics was presented to Catalina Curceanu of Frascati National Laboratory (LNF-INFN), Italy, on behalf of the European Physical Society (EPS). The award, which was presented during a workshop on quantum foundations at Frascati, cited her outstanding research work in experimental nuclear, hadronic and quantum physics, substantial contributions to low-energy QCD, her pioneering research in foundational issues, and successful outreach and education. The Emmy Noether distinction is awarded twice a year to female physicists for their personal achievements in physics research, education, outreach or other physics-related work, and aims to help attract women into a physics career.

Event breathes new life into CERN history

On 1–2 February experts in the history of science and related fields came to CERN to discuss a new initiative to record CERN’s history. It has been more than 20 years since the original CERN History Project concluded, culminating in the publication of a three-volume series that covered the period from CERN’s creation to the late 1970s. “CERN History Days” was a first step to relaunch the project, and more than 50 people attended. The two-day event took the form of an open symposium to stimulate general reflection from the contributions of invited speakers, followed by a closed workshop with sessions about written, oral, digital and other aspects of the project. The organisers will now digest the rich discussions and produce a roadmap to be proposed to CERN management for a resumption of the history project.

Winners of Buchalter Prize announced

The winners of the 2017 Buchalter Cosmology Prize were announced in January at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington, DC. The annual prize, created by Ari Buchalter in 2014, rewards ideas or discoveries that have the potential to produce a breakthrough in our understanding of the origin, structure and evolution of the universe.

The $10,000 first prize was awarded to Lasha Berezhiani of the Max Planck Institute for Physics and Justin Khoury of the University of Pennsylvania, for their work entitled “Theory of Dark Matter Superfluidity” (arXiv:1507.01019), while the $5000 second prize was awarded to Steffen Gielen of the University of Nottingham and Neil Turok of the Perimeter Institute, for their work “Perfect Quantum Cosmological Bounce” (arXiv:1510.00699). The $2500 third prize was awarded to Peter Adshead of the University of Illinois, Diego Blas of CERN, Cliff Burgess and Peter Hayman of McMaster University and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, and Subodh Patil of the Niels Bohr Institute, for their work entitled “Magnon Inflation: Slow Roll with Steep Potentials” (arXiv:1604.06048).

Creating a shared future in a fractured world

CERN Director-General Fabiola Gianotti was a co-chair of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, 23–29 January, speaking at several events. Among them was a panel discussion among co-chairs entitled “Creating a shared future in a fractured world” (pictured), where she spoke about the universal and unifying nature of science and how institutions such as CERN and SESAME exemplify the commitment and shared goals of the international community.

On 25 January Gianotti took part in a panel discussion on “Creating a shared future through education and empowerment” alongside Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and Nobel peace prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, where she emphasised the value of evidence-based assessment and the meaning of a measurement and its uncertainty. This was the first time that the head of a scientific organisation had been asked to serve as a WEF co-chair. “It provided a unique opportunity to promote the crucial role of science in addressing the major challenges facing society today to an audience of leaders of government, industry and civil society,” she said. “It is my hope that science will have an equally prominent place at future annual meetings of the WEF, as an essential component of global discussions about the direction our world is taking.”

Human interactions leave indelible tracks at CERN

The kick-off event of the CERN alumni programme, named “First Collisions”, took place on 2 and 3 February. It was a truly unforgettable experience, certainly for the organisers, who put all our energy into the organisation of the very first reunion of CERN alumni. The participants – some 360 people coming from all over the world – gathered at CERN with their wealth of history, experiences and skills that are now part of all of us thanks to the fruitful exchanges we shared. Some of the participants came to reunite with former colleagues, others to develop their network, others to just see what CERN is like today. It was an invaluable opportunity to be able to obtain feedback about the new network and expectations for its future development.

The talks delivered by CERN alumni were the heartbeat of the event. They included Pierre Darriulat, spokesperson of the UA2 experiment and CERN’s research director from 1987–1994, who delivered important messages about science without borders, and Christer Fuglesang, director of KTH Space Center, talking about swapping CERN’s underground installations for a career in space. The inspiring speakers were able to trigger interesting discussions among the participants, which continued during the networking breaks and the dinner held in the CMS experimental hall. We enjoyed spending time in a very relaxed atmosphere, which transformed a normally experimental worksite into a cosy venue for one special evening.

First Collisions was also an opportunity for many families and friends to explore the various corners of CERN together. Many of the experimental sites that participants and their families visited had been opened exclusively for them, and in many cases the spokespersons of the various experiments played the role of guides for our alumni – a unique opportunity for all concerned.

The event is now over, but it is a case of “see you soon” for all the members of the network. Indeed, we are just at the beginning. The CERN alumni network will continue to grow and will be shaped by the needs, enthusiasm and involvement of its members. This will require a lot of work and a strong vision, and a roadmap for the future based on these initial few months of collaboration is being prepared.

Physics fest for a future circular collider

The second Future Circular Collider (FCC) physics workshop was held at CERN on 15–19 January, gathering particle physicists from around the world for talks and detailed discussions on the physics capabilities of future electron–positron, electron–proton, and proton–proton colliders.

The FCC study, which emerged following the 2013 European Strategy for Particle Physics, is a five-year project led by CERN to investigate a circular collider built in a new 100 km-circumference tunnel in the Geneva region. Such a tunnel could host an e+e collider (called FCC-ee), a 100 TeV proton–proton collider (FCC-hh) or an electron–proton collider (FCC-eh). Further opportunities include the collision of heavy ions in FCC-hh and FCC-eh, and fixed-target experiments using the injector complex. Last year saw a significant evolution in the maturity of the physics studies for these machines, with many detailed results presented. These results include new techniques to determine the properties of the Higgs boson, such as the all-important Higgs potential, and how these relate to fundamental questions at the smallest distance scales. New ideas about how to search for new particles interacting very weakly with normal matter – such as new species of neutrinos, dark photons or other new light scalar particles – were also studied in depth.

The January workshop was preceded by a dedicated meeting to determine whether the unprecedented precision of physics measurements provided by FCC machines could be compared against equally high-precision theoretical predictions.

The results of this study were affirmative, as reported on the first day of the FCC physics workshop. A major theme that emerged during the workshop was the depth of complementarity between the capacities of the different FCC modes in exploring the questions that will remain open after the completion of the LHC programme. Combining their individual strengths will enable comprehensive exploration in search of answers to the pending questions in particle physics.

Project to assess impact of research infrastructures

At an event in Brussels on 19 January, the European Commission launched the RI Impact Pathways project to develop a model for analysing the socio-economic impacts of its research infrastructures (RIs). The €1.5 million project aims to identify and quantify the broader value of RIs and their plans for improvements, initiating a “comprehensive stocktaking exercise” on the existing approaches for impact assessment of Europe’s research infrastructures.

The long-term benefits of research infrastructures to society at large are undisputed. Training, industrial innovation and the creation of cultural goods are among the main benefits that emerge from these highly international, collaborative environments for society. As RIs become larger, more complex and attract more users, their costs increase, hence it is important to have a common framework to assess the societal impact.

RI Impact Pathways will undertake an extensive consultation over the next two years with the research community, policy makers and funding agencies in Europe. According to project manager Alasdair Reid, it “aims to develop an operational model and a toolkit to help RI managers, funders and decision makers to understand the full range of benefits that can occur from investment in RIs”. Project participants include CSIL (Italy), DESY (Germany) and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, among several others.

CERN participates via the Future Circular Collider (FCC) study, which is exploring the feasibility and opportunities of a post-LHC particle collider. A report commissioned last year by the FCC group showed that entering in CERN procurement had a statistically significant effect on the long-term operating revenues and profitability of LHC suppliers, driven mostly driven by high-tech orders, and the benefits of future colliders is expected to be at least as high.

CLIC workshop focuses on strategy

The Compact Linear Collider (CLIC) workshop is the main annual gathering of the CLIC accelerator and detector communities, and this year attracted more than 220 participants to CERN on 22–26 January. CLIC is a proposed electron-positron linear collider envisaged for the era beyond the high-luminosity LHC (HL-LHC), that would operate a staged programme over a period of 25 years with collision energies at 0.38, 1.5, and 3 TeV. This year the CLIC workshop focused on preparations for the update of the European Strategy for Particle Physics in 2019–2020. The initial CLIC energy stage is optimised to provide high-precision Higgs boson and top-quark measurements, with the higher-energy stages enhancing sensitivity to effects from beyond-Standard Model (BSM) physics (CERN Courier November 2016 p20). Following a 2017 publication on Higgs physics, the workshop heard reports on recent developments in top-quark physics and the BSM potential at CLIC, both of which are attracting significant interest from the theory community.

Speakers also reported extensive progress in the validation and performance of the new detector model. To ensure that its performance meets the challenging specifications, a new approach to tracking has been commissioned, and the particle flow analysis and flavour-tagging capabilities have been consolidated. Updates were presented on the broad and active R&D programme on the vertex and tracking detectors, which aims to find technologies that simultaneously fulfil all the CLIC requirements. Reports were given on test-beam campaigns with both hybrid and monolithic assemblies, and on ideas for future developments. Many of the tracking and calorimeter technologies under study for the CLIC detector are also of interest to the HL-LHC, where the high granularity and time-resolution needed for CLIC are equally crucial.

For the accelerator, studies with the aim of reducing the cost and power have particular priority, presenting the initial CLIC stage as a project requiring resources comparable to what was needed for LHC. Key activities in this context are high-efficiency RF systems, permanent magnet studies, optimised accelerator structures and overall implementation studies related to civil engineering, infrastructure, schedules and tunnel layout.

A key aspect of the ongoing accelerator development is moving towards industrialisation of the component manufacture, by fostering wider applications of the CLIC 12 GHz X-band technology with external partners. In this respect, the CLIC workshop coincided with the kick-off meeting for the CompactLight project recently funded by the Horizon 2020 programme, which aims to design an optimised X-ray free-electron laser based on X-band technology for more compact and efficient accelerators (CERN Courier December 2017 p8).

Last year also saw the realisation of the CERN Linear Electron Accelerator for Research (CLEAR), a new user facility for accelerator R&D whose programme includes CLIC high-gradient and instrumentation studies (CERN Courier November 2017 p8). Presentations at the workshop addressed the programmes for instrumentation and radiation studies, plasma-lensing, wakefield monitors and high-energy electrons for cancer therapy.

During 2018 the CLIC accelerator and detector and physics collaborations will prepare summary reports focusing on the 380 GeV initial CLIC project implementation as inputs for the update of the European Strategy for Particle Physics, including plans for the project preparation phase in 2020–2025.

Rutherford Appleton Laboratory turns 60

The UK’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) marked its 60th anniversary in late 2017, highlighting its many roles in fundamental research over the decades. RAL started off in 1957 as the National Institute for Research in Nuclear Science to operate the Rutherford High Energy Laboratory, at a time when the Harwell campus (a former airbase) was rising in prominence as a centre for nuclear research, and is now part of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

Since its inception, RAL has been at the core of particle-physics research and played host to a variety of accelerators including the early proton synchrotron NIMROD. The experimental focus of the laboratory has since shifted focus to higher energy centres overseas such as CERN and SLAC, and also beyond particle physics, including the space sector and materials science.

Computing is also at the core of RAL’s history. In 1961 the laboratory was home to the Atlas 1 computer, at that time the most powerful computer in the world, while the cutting-edge CGI and animation technologies developed at the site prompted the Financial Times to dub the Oxfordshire laboratory “the home of computer animation in Britain”.


On 24 January the prime minister of the Republic of Estonia, Jüri Ratas, visited CERN, during which he toured the ATLAS underground experimental area. Estonian scientists have been active members of the CERN community since joining the CMS collaboration in 1997, and the country operates a Tier-2 Grid computing centre in Tallinn.

On 19 January newly appointed director general of the European Southern Observatory, Xavier Barcons, spent a day at CERN, during which he saw the AWAKE facility, the CMS underground experimental area, and magnet and robotics facilities.

Patrick Vallance, president of research and development at GlaxoSmithKline GB, came to CERN on 26 January. Taking advantage of the accelerator winter shutdown, he visited the LHC tunnel followed by ATLAS and the computing centre.

Kostas Gavroglu, Greek minister for education, research and religious affairs, visited CERN on 1–2 February. In addition to participating in the CERN History Days, he visited the LHC tunnel, the CMS underground area, and signed the guest book with director for international relations Charlotte Warakaulle.