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Robin Erbacher | USLHC | USA

View Blog | Read Bio

Where in the World Have I Been?


View of Mont Blanc from our hotel outside of CERN.

Hello from the airplane back from CERN!

I am just returning from a very productive “CMS week”, which is a collaboration meeting that is typically held three times per year. It was a busy week, and leaving my three-year-old back in California with his grandparents allowed me to stay late at CERN for the usual evening meetings. (As I mentioned previously, U.S. collaborators at the LHC have a hard time attending meetings due to the time shift, so we in the U.S. are fortunate that many meetings are scheduled in the evening, CERN-time.)

The trip to CERN allowed me to catch up with colleagues on CMS, with the latest status reports of the detector performance and detector upgrade plans, and with the latest physics results from CMS, of which there are many! But more importantly for me, it allowed me to attend meetings in person, where the give-and-take is easier (as opposed to video/audio meetings), and to meet personally with many collaborators on my own analyses, some of whom I had never even met in person. [In a large experiment such as CMS, we often find ourselves collaborating with people who have common interests in physics topics, and prior relationships are not necessarily required.]

One of the reasons for my recent silence on this page is that I’m in the midst of the approval process for two different analyses on CMS, which we hope to make public on time for the big European Physical Society (EPS) meeting, which begins on July 21st. (I’d tell you about them but then I’d have to kill you. Grin. Top Secret, no blog leaks allowed! … Okay, okay, I promise I will tell you as soon as they are approved for public.) Time is very short and we are all scrambling to get the proper documentation together, the analyses completed, and to answer all of the questions from our physics group leaders (conveners) and internal reviewers—each analysis has reviewers assigned specifically to ask hard questions, to read all documentation, and to ensure the quality of all the results that are made public from CMS. Having two different analyses, presented in the same meeting in many cases, has been challenging, but it helps that I am working with very strong students, postdocs, and faculty/researchers, so that we can all pull together to help as needed and as schedules allow.

This is a truly exciting time, since everybody is pushing for the all-important summer conferences. Those of us who do not have their analyses ready for the first big meeting have several others in August to aim for: Lepton-Photon 2011 (Mumbai, India) and Supersymmetry 2011 (Fermilab, IL)  are two of the large ones.

The other reason for my silence: Before I traveled to CERN, I had somehow made three trips to Fermilab for research purposes during May and June (not to mention a quick vacation to Mexico with my parents, shhh!), and a trip to Notre Dame for the US CMS Collaboration Meeting. (Ken, of course, beat me to the blog on that one!)

Where’s Waldo? Ken Bloom hand-waving during his presentation at the US CMS Collaboration Meeting in Notre Dame.

Postdoc Jason Slaunwhite (Notre Dame) and Prof. Tulika Bose (Boston University) in discussions over coffee at the US CMS Collaboration Meeting.

During one of my Fermilab trips, we had our collaboration meeting for the CDF experiment at Fermilab’s Tevatron. It is an exciting time there, too.  We have extremely large datasets that we are exploiting with very mature, sophisticated analysis tools that have been developed over the period of CDF Run 2 (2001-2011). My CDF student, David Cox, was in the process of approving his thesis result on our latest search for “tprime”, a hypothetical, massive fourth-generation (or other) top-like quark. We hope to submit our final paper on this subject from CDF in a couple of weeks, so that has also happily occupied my time.

Its an interesting position to be in: straddling the Tevatron at its peak, and the LHC at its start, because at the Tevatron we are competing with the new results from the LHC that will come out soon, which will potentially outdo many of our Tevatron searches for new massive particles, simply because of the large increase in collision energy at the LHC over the Tevatron. In one case I’m working on the same analysis on both experiments, rushing the CDF paper to beat the CMS result that I’m also spending so much time on.

My most recent trip to Fermilab coincided with my husband, John Conway’s, week-long shift duty on CDF. We went together and brought our son. During the week I was able to help four of our UC Davis graduate students on CMS arrive and get settled for their partial summer stay at the LHC Physics Center (LPC). We at UC Davis have found the LPC at Fermilab to be an excellent place to get our students and sometimes our postdocs started in familiarizing themselves with CMS, with group meetings, analysis tools, and so forth. There are plenty of experts stationed at Fermilab (some Fermilab staff, some from other universities) that it is easy for them to get technical questions about the software or detector answered. The LPC has sponsored software tutorials at least once a year that the students can work with at the start. There are also a few hardware projects based at Fermilab that some in our group have been involved in, and we are continuing to collaborate with future efforts that will be based at the lab.

Four of our new CMS students settling in to the UC Davis cubicle at the LPC at Fermilab. Left-to-right: Francesca Ricci-Tam, Rachel Houtz, Matt Caulfield, Britney Rutherford.

With the excitement from both the finale of the Tevatron era, and the beginning of the LHC, there are too many places to be at once, but I’m happy to spend time on it all!

And next… I go camping in California, for some needed r&r before the end of the summer conference push.   See you back here soon!