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Ken Bloom | USLHC | USA

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The crossroads of particle physics

Particle physicists come from all over the world to eat at CERN’s Restaurant 1. Actually it is more accurate to say that they come from all over the world and eat at R1, but that doesn’t change the fact that at any mealtime there, it seems like you can run into just about anyone in particle physics. (This is why some people prefer to eat at Restaurant 2.) When I’ve visited CERN, I’ve enjoyed happening upon all sorts of friends and acquaintances from my twenty years as a working particle physicist. Some I collaborated with years ago and haven’t seen in a long time; others are fellow CMS members who I just didn’t know were also going to be in town that week.

That being said, I never expected to run into my thesis adviser there, as I did two weeks ago. She is not a collaborator on an LHC experiment; her interests started heading towards astrophysics some time ago, and her current administrative duties largely preclude her from doing day-to-day research. However, she had been at DESY earlier that week for an event, and that gave her an opportunity to visit SLAC’s ATLAS collaborators at CERN. It was just dumb luck that I was still lingering at R1 when she came through to get some dinner for herself.

We quickly scheduled breakfast together for the next morning. While we’ve managed to exchange some email and talk on the phone a couple of times, it was the first time in nearly six years that I had seen her in person. In that time my life has changed almost completely, so it was very good to catch up. It was good to hear her perspective on where our field is and where it’s going, and to discuss the challenges of building a career as a university professor while being a parent of young children. I still don’t really know how she did it, and our conversation reminded me once again that I’m not as smart as her, nor do I have as broad an understanding of particle physics as she does. Now that I’m the same age she was when I was a graduate student, it troubles me a bit. But what can you do — we can’t all be our advisers.

Since we get to see each other so rarely, I thought that a souvenir photo was in order, but it was hard to get her to pose for it. “Lab directors don’t smile!” she said. The experimental evidence is to the contrary.

Student and adviser

I’m off to CERN again this week — we’ll see who shows up in R1 this time!

p.s. As I write, the LHC is circulating beam, and the beam energy has been ramped to 3.5 TeV in preparation for a physics run. As we would say back at CESR, “Beams are at energy, not yet colliding!”

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