Quick thinking, Fermilab help experiment stay afloat
The IATL building and Iowa Memorial Union. Photo courtesy of Tom Jorgensen/University of Iowa
The flood waters crept up. The lights went out. Yasar Onel and 12 of his students were not about to let angry Midwest weather wash away the University of Iowa's part in the world's largest physics experiment.
They grabbed the delicate quartz plates and read-out systems crucial for the CMS experiment at CERN and rushed for the department van.
"We were told we had two hours to leave before the highways were closed to traffic. So we packed as much as we could and headed for Fermilab," said Onel, the University of Iowa professor and CMS collaborator.
What was usually a 2 1/2 drive took over seven hours. When they arrived at Fermilab support came from all levels.
"They already knew our problem and took us in. They gave my students housing, did all the paperwork for shipment, and let us complete our work in Lab 7. I couldn't believe all the support," Onel said.
The help enabled the group to make its deadline at CERN, preventing a possible test beam delay. Other researchers at the university weren't so lucky. More than 16 buildings flooded and officials expect it could take six months or more to replace or fix equipment.
Fermilab has dozens of collaborators from the Univeristy of Iowa, where flooding blocked routes to airports and caused an estimated $250 milllion damage. Most of the high-energy physics buildings escaped damage, but some HEP and astronomy offices in the Iowa Advanced Technology Laboratory building flooded, as did the homes of professors and graduate students working with Fermilab.
"We had a very difficult time preparing our CMS/SLHC upgrade and CMS forward calorimetry projects and set-ups due to the floods," Onel said."Thanks to Fermilab, the detectors were received on time and we could start our test beam effort at CERN's H2 facility on July 1. We had a very successful running period."
You can help the university through the UI Flood Relief Fund
You can also view the most up-to-date information on the flood repairs and a large gallery of photos at the university's flood information Web site.
-- Jennifer L. Johnson
University of Iowa High-Energy Physics Group. Photos courtesy of Yasar Onel