Ray Stefanski retires after 41 years
Fermilab scientist Ray Stefanski, who was integral to the design and completion of construction of the MiniBooNE experiment, celebrates the completion of construction in 2002.
It was late summer of 1969 when Ray Stefanski drove his Sunbeam Alpine from Brookhaven to Fermilab. The coupe allowed him a great view as he drove past the Fermilab landscape.
"I thought, this could be a good place to stay for a few years, and then I'll get myself a real job," Stefanski said.
But he was attracted to the intellectually adventurist spirit of the laboratory and its founding director, Robert Wilson, and the physicist found himself pursuing exciting project after project. Now, more than 41 years later, Stefanski has gone to look for adventure elsewhere. He retired in December.
"Bob Wilson encouraged us to explore crazy ideas," Stefanski said. "He was our inspiration to try new things all the time and he really stood up for what he believed in."
Stefanski has tried to model Wilson's approach in his career.
"In the 1970s, Ray was Mr. Neutrino," said scientist Herman White. "He was undaunted by any project that needed to be done and we were doing things that had never been done before."
Stefanski initially worked as part of the Neutrino Department in the original Research Division on the design and construction of the Neutrino Area. He then participated in several neutrino experiments and helped to design and build neutrino beams.
In 1974, Stefanski, White's first supervisor, was part of a team trying to provide beam to the 15-foot bubble chamber. A magnet failed in a target tube and they had to tune around it. White had an idea and Stefanski gave him an opportunity to prove it.
"Ray said, 'Well, if you have a better tuning suggestion, you've got until 6 a.m.' I spent all night working on this and early in the morning Ray walks into my office to see if I needed help," White said.
White's solution did work out. He credits Stefanski for taking him seriously early on in his career.
Fermilab scientist Steve Brice shared White's sentiment. Stefanski was his first supervisor as well.
"When I started, I was an associate scientist not familiar with the laboratory at all," Brice said. "Ray made sure that I found my feet and fit in."
-- Rhianna Wisniewski