Physicist Dave Charlton takes over Cern’s Atlas project

University of Birmingham professor appointed post-Higgs boson ‘spokesperson’. By Paul Jump

March 7, 2013

Source: Cern

Mountains of data: the Atlas experiment may generate more new physics

Some might regard taking over the running of one of the experiments that revealed the existence of the Higgs boson particle as akin to pushing the dustcart after the Lord Mayor’s show.

But not Dave Charlton. The professor of particle physics at the University of Birmingham described the coming consolidation period at Cern, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, as “extremely exciting and interesting”.

Professor Charlton took up the role of “spokesperson”, or scientific leader, of the Atlas experiment at Cern’s Large Hadron Collider on 1 March, having been voted into the role by the project’s 177 member institutions last July, at the height of media hysteria over the discovery of the “God particle”.

Professor Charlton, who was deputy spokesperson at the time of the “seminar” announcing the discovery (fronted by his predecessor, Fabiola Gianotti), said his key task at the helm would be to achieve consensus, since all 3,000 physicists involved in the collaboration “basically have an equal say” in how the project is conducted.

Such diplomacy will remain crucial even though the Atlas experiment was recently shut down until the end of 2014 - by which time Professor Charlton’s two-year term (which may be renewed) will be nearing its end.

Priorities for the upgrade of the detector still have to be set, and any problems they meet need to be solved.

The continuing analysis of data gathered during Atlas’ triumphant first run also needs to be optimised across the collaboration’s 100,000 global computers.

“We would be very lucky to have something as big as the Higgs come out of the latest data but it is still possible there will be more new physics,” he said.

Professor Charlton will also be busy planning “substantial” future Atlas upgrades ahead of experiments in 2020 at much higher intensities. This will require frequent discussions with Atlas funders.

And although officials and politicians might question why more spending is needed if the “missing link” of the standard model of physics has already been discovered, Professor Charlton is primed with a response: “It is unclear what else the Higgs is telling us about theories beyond the standard model.

“There is a huge potential to explore that with the upgrades.”

paul.jump@tsleducation.com

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Worried man wiping forehead
Two academics explain how to beat some of the typical anxieties associated with a doctoral degree

Felipe Fernández-Armesto takes issue with a claim that the EU has been playing the sovereignty card in Brexit negotiations

Female professor

New data show proportion of professors who are women has declined at some institutions

John McEnroe arguing with umpire. Tennis

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman explain how to negotiate your annual performance and development review

Man throwing axes

UCU attacks plans to cut 171 posts, but university denies Brexit 'the reason'