Fermi National Laboratory

Volume 23  |  Friday, November 10, 2000  |  Number 19
In This Issue  |  FermiNews Main Page

It Can't Hurt To Try

by Mike Perricone

UEC chairman Larry Nodulman. With 21 years of experience as a user at CDF, new Users Executive Committee chairman Larry Nodulman has a keen understanding of how volunteerism translates into action.

"There's never a lack of enthusiasm to grab onto an issue," says Nodulman, also a senior physicist at nearby Argonne National Laboratory. "Then you look around the table, and those are the people you have to work with. When somebody says, `WE must do something,' that's the `WE,' the people around the table. So you have to set realistic goals."

But realistic doesn't equal pessimistic. Nodulman may greet diverse challenges with identically bemused shrugs, but it's soon evident that his outlook comes from being a process guy. With two decades of experience working on a detector, he appreciates the way you can't take a long walk without making a lot of small steps.

"We regard ourselves as an ombudsman for the Fermilab users," he says of the UEC. "If any users have any issues they'd like us to think about or investigate, at any level, we want them to feel free to contact us. We're not the PAC [Physics Advisory Committee], we can't say yes or no on something."

"But you can actually do things. I was impressed when [outgoing chairman] Dan Amidei went to the Board of Overseers to talk about the lack of office space for users. The Board got interested, URA put up some money, and there will be some new office space. So there really are possibilities. Maybe we can do something or maybe not, but it certainly can't hurt to try."

One issue Nodulman knows the UEC will work on is that of health insurance for graduate students, following up on a survey taken during the last year by the Graduate Students Association at Fermilab. Graduate students are required to have health insurance before being issued a Fermilab identification card, but the GSA survey found that many students have inadequate coverage if they're away from their home universities. Nodulman says the UEC is making inquiries and eliciting feedback, and hopes to make a recommendation in the course of the next few monthly meetings.

And then there's the annual trek to Washington, D.C. Last year's visit was organized by Greg Snow of the University of Nebraska, who had been Amidei's immediate predecessor as UEC chairman. Graduate students have become an especially important part of the trip, emphasizing education and the long-term commitment of promising young scientists.

"People in Washington have so many visitors, with so many agendas," Nodulman says. "Do we have an impact? I don't know, but it can't hurt to try."

He adds: "Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, says this economic expansion is due to technology. When we're in Washington our goal is just talking to people, leaving them with something like a one-page summary of our message. And if nothing else, just being polite."

Reaching out to neighbors is equally imperative, and Nodulman hopes to continue and extend the highly successful "mini-open houses" which originated at CDF through the efforts of Outreach Committee members Herman White of Fermilab,

Vaia Papadmitriou of Texas Tech and Peter Garbincius of Fermilab. DZero and NuMI/MINOS have also held tours for the general public, and Garbincius spurred the inception of Fermilab's new weekend "Meet a Scientist" program.

"I think our outreach efforts have been very well received," Nodulman says. "Herman, Vaia and Peter have especially contributed to an atmosphere of getting people to do things, and encouraging spinoffs, which has really helped."

After working on the CDF upgrades, Nodulman is eager to dig in to the new physics possibilities when Collider Run II begins in March 2001. His own areas of focus are W mass measurements and electroweak physics, but he sees rich possibilities for B physics early in Run II, and

he's intrigued by the "indications" from CERN that the Higgs could well be within Fermilab's reach. But speaking of CERN, and the looming future presence of the Large Hadron Collider, raises his level of concern for the long run at Fermilab.

"In terms of the physics program, what happens when the energy frontier leaves town?" he wonders. "Some of the Fermilab user community is now working on CMS [the Compact Muon Solenoid detector for LHC]. Once that experiment running, those people will become more CERN users than Fermilab users. It's not an immediate crisis, but it is out there in the distance."

Can something be done? As Larry Nodulman likes to say, it can't hurt to try.

last modified 11/10/2000   email Fermilab