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Ken Bloom | USLHC | USA

View Blog | Read Bio

A US LHC first

Some years ago I interviewed for a faculty job at University X. (I won’t name the school as I didn’t get the job; no hard feelings, as I like my current job very much.) During the interview, one professor there asked me, “So, do you plan to be deputy spokesperson of CMS someday?” Being appropriately ambitious, I shot back, “Why not spokesperson?” The professor replied, “There will never be an American spokesperson of an LHC experiment.” A natural thought, perhaps, given the strong role of European countries in experiments at CERN, the European particle physics laboratory.

Last week, that professor was proven wrong when Prof. Joe Incandela of UC Santa Barbara was elected as CMS spokesperson for 2012-13, making him the first spokesperson of an LHC experiment from a United States institution. Joe has been involved in CMS since 1998; since then he has played a leading role in building the silicon tracker, and then served as deputy physics coordinator and currently as deputy spokesperson.

Joe was elected on the first ballot in a three-way race against two other strong and well-qualified (and European) candidates. It was an exciting event for the US collaborators, of course, but also for the experiment as a whole, as we selected our leader for the upcoming two years. Being spokesperson of an LHC experiment is a huge job, with great responsibility and also great opportunity to shape the experiment and the collaboration. What does a spokesperson do? As the name suggests, he is our primary representative to the public, to various agencies that fund the experiment, and to the laboratory management. But he is also essentially the CEO of the experiment. He has to pull together the team that will oversee all aspects of the experiment — the detector operations, the computing and software efforts, the management of data analysis and publication processes, the development and installation of upgraded equipment, the financing of all of the above, and so forth. As a result the spokesperson can have a lot of influence over the personality of the experiment. (After saying all that, I wonder — would I really want that job, like I said in the job interview? Whoo, I’m not sure!)

Joe will be on duty for an exciting couple of years. We might accumulate enough data during 2012 to make a major discovery, and then in 2013 we’ll have the long shutdown to upgrade the LHC energy and make various changes to the detector. No matter what happens, we’re going to be looking at a different physics landscape on the first day of 2014 than we will on the last day of 2011. I had an opportunity to shake Joe’s hand the day after the election. “Don’t screw up,” I advised him.

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