Business or 'bribe'?
Today's column is written by Dave Carlson, head of Business Services Section.
I found out recently from a university physics student that my job -- taking care
of business for science -- is actually "preserving the conservation of energy." I didn't think the law of conservation of energy needed any preserving, but maybe I will learn more about this concept when representatives from the Society of Physics Students at Central Michigan University (CMU) return to Fermilab. The important-sounding thought that I was somehow involved in preserving a natural law arose from an impromptu Saturday afternoon discussion in my office with Clavis A. James, President of the Society, and three fellow members, Clark VanDam, Jeffery VanHamlin and Daniel Simon, along with their enthusiastic and knowledgeable Fermilab docent, Mary Hawthorne.
They had visited Argonne National Lab, and I'm not sure why they stopped by the Business Office for answers to their physics questions. But I was here, so I tried. One question involved detecting neutrinos. As often seems to happen when I'm having trouble containing an enthusiastic explanation, I went to my whiteboard and drew a crude schematic of the old E-356 neutrino detector formerly in Lab E. That's an easy example to fall back on, because it's where I worked when I first came to Fermilab and the experiment was being built.
They quickly pushed me to the limit of my grasp of particle physics, but they seemed intrigued that a business guy loved to talk about the science here. Many Fermilab employees enjoy bringing family and friends to show off what we do, expressing an attitude of pride and enthusiasm comprising a big part of the rewards of working here.
As for the "bribe:" We offered to entertain these students again, and I agreed to mention their visit in my next Fermilab Today column -- if they would share their positive visiting experience with their fellow society members. Since they were also very concerned about issues of science and math education in the United States, I recommended they read the report commissioned by the National Academies, "Rising Above the Gathering Storm."
Clavis James and a few others are new subscribers to Fermilab Today, and Clavis has started to read the National Academies' report. I believe he will be keeping his end of the bargain today, when, in his words, "I plan on preaching about the exciting wonders of Argonne (and more importantly) Fermilab . I hope Fermilab will continue to inspire as it did for us." Isn't it wonderful when our enthusiasm is reflected in the motivation of others, in this case, a group of students who traveled all the way from Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, on a dreary Saturday to see a couple of DOE laboratories?