Fermi National Laboratory

Volume 25  |  Friday, June 14, 2002  |  Number 10
In This Issue  |  FermiNews Main Page

Changing of the Guard

Montgomery succeeds Shaevitz as Associate Director for Research

by Mike Perricone

Mike Shaevitz is ready to roll on a Harley-Davidson custom VRSC, during commencement ceremonies at Columbia University. Looking on a bit warily is Jeff Bleustein, the C.E.O. of Harley-Davidson, who gave the commencement address at the school of engineering. A fter three years as Fermilab’s first associate director for research, Mike Shaevitz is ready to saddle up and head back to Columbia University and Nevis Laboratories. Shaevitz, a Fermilab researcher since 1975, will move back to Westchester, New York in August, but he’ll make frequent return visits as a collaborator on the MiniBooNE neutrino experiment.

The silver Harley, however, is only symbolic of his expected time on the road.

“Jeff Bleustein, the C.E.O. of Harley- Davidson, gave the commencement address when my son, Dan, graduated from the Columbia school of engineering last month,” Shaevitz said. “Bleustein arrived on campus riding this new custom model. I got a photo op.”

The charges of the last three years during Shaevitz’s watch have gone well beyond the ceremonial. Collider Run II of the Tevatron had its official start in March, 2001; MiniBooNE is anticipating its first neutrino events; the Main Injector Neutrino Oscillation Search (MINOS) is progressing both at Fermilab and at the remote detector site in Soudan, Minnesota; the lab is moving ahead on a new fixed-target program originating at the Main Injector, as well as following the recommendations of the High-Energy Physics Advisory Panel in investigating the possibility of a linear collider. The list goes on from there.

“I feel I owe the lab a lot for my career in physics, and I’m glad I’ve been able to help in this way for these last three years,” Shaevitz said. “It’s been good to give something back in the way of service to the lab. I feel that we’ve accomplished a lot, though of course you always hope to accomplish more.”

Mike Shaevitz The position of Associate Director for Research was created in 1999 by new Fermilab Director Michael Witherell, with Shaevitz the first appointee. Fermilab physicist Hugh Montgomery has been named to succeed Shaevitz. Montgomery moves to the second floor of Wilson Hall bringing two decades of lab experience, including roles in fixed target experiments, in the “old” Research Division, the upgrades to DZero, terms as both co-spokesperson and department head at DZero, and as head of the lab’s response to the severe recommendations of the 1992 review by the Department of Energy “tiger team.”

Responding to the tiger team report was a milestone of teamwork under pressure.

“The tiger team examined the entire operation of the lab,” Montgomery recalled. “They presented an ocean of findings. The lab had to provide a plan to respond to those findings. Our response team had to formulate what the lab needed to do for each finding, and estimate the cost of doing it. I was working with very good people—Gerry Bellendir, Kevin Cahill, Tom Nicol, Rich Stanek, Dan Wolf. By now these are some of the most senior engineers in the lab. We completed the report on time, though everyone had been skeptical about the target date at first. The consultants who were working with us called these guys ‘the dream team.’”

Yet another team-building exercise lay ahead, on a somewhat different scale. Montgomery was co-spokesperson of the DZero collaboration, with Paul Grannis, when the top quark announcements were made for evidence of a finding in 1994, and for the observation in 1995. The significance of the discovery was complicated by the sheer numbers of collaborating scientists, and by the communication and review effort needed to bring nearly 500 voices into accord.

“It was quite challenging and rewarding,” Montgomery said. “The time scales for a reaction were not long, given nearly 500 people were all required to say ‘yes’ before we could make a move. It was quite a trick, the last few weeks.” Grannis and Montgomery assembled a review board of scientists who were not working on top quark analysis, chaired by Michigan State’s Harry Weerts, who went on to succeed Grannis as DZero co-spokesperson.

“Email had matured by then,” Montgomery said, “so we made strong use of email communications to tell people what we were doing, what stage we had reached, and inviting them to contribute and comment. The collaboration stretched from Europe to Hawaii.”

For the 1995 discovery announcement, Grannis gave the talk at Fermilab and Montgomery gave the presentation at CERN, where he had worked before moving to Fermilab.

“It was gratifying,” he admitted, “to go back to the lab you had left ten years earlier, and say, ‘Hey, we found the top.’”

Montgomery retains British citizenship, along with much of his North Country accent. His origins are in Middleham, a village in the cheese-producing region of northern England. The village grew from a castle built around the 12th century, which is still standing. Montgomery described the environs as “six hundred people, six hundred horses, one castle, two chapels, one church, and four pubs.” His interest in physics grew from helping his instructor assemble lab equipment in secondary school (his starting class numbered 11 girls and five boys). He studied at the University of Manchester (“…and I support Manchester United,” he added quickly, staunchly establishing his soccer loyalties). At CERN, he was spokesman for the European Muon Collaboration before moving to Fermilab in 1983.

Hugh Montgomery Montgomery (universally called “Mont”) also organized the 2001 series of “Line Drive” lectures, highlighting issues involved with a linear collider as the possible next “big machine” for high-energy physics after the inauguration of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN later this decade. He said he is encouraged by the increased interest and enthusiasm for a linear collider evident in the last year, with university groups willing to participate in research and development for the machine, as well as in its experiments.

Fermilab is a major participant in LHC, building components for the accelerator and major structures of the Compact Muon Solenoid, and Montgomery saw a challenge ahead in a new experience for Fermilab physicists.

“We don’t have a great deal of experience with large numbers of Fermilab scientists working outside Fermilab,” he said. “But we’ll have our scientists working remotely at CERN, while we also serve as a host hub for analysis, for computing, maybe even for physics here in the U.S.”

But Collider Run II of the Tevatron is the research priority.

“Fermilab has a very big physics program, and with its collider and neutrino experiments, one can argue that it’s the strongest in the world,” Montgomery said. “We have the highest-energy machine in the world until the LHC. It’s our duty to exploit that capability. It’s also tremendously exciting. The physics potential is very high. We must execute well and exploit what we have, with very much a feet-on-the-ground approach. It will not require a 20-year vision, but it will require careful nurturing to maximize the results, given the limited resources felt by all the labs. Maintaining the right balance, looking for the right opportunity, and enjoying the ride—that’s no mean feat. Looking to make the maximum of the opportunity— that will be my goal.”

Shaevitz will be an active and enthusiastic participant, teaching at Columbia and continuing his neutrino research.

“I’m happy Mont decided to take up the reins,” Shaevitz said. “He’s a good choice with a lot of experience at the lab. And it looks like Fermilab will be the center of the universe for the next ten years. It looks like most of the important physics in our field will come out of here. The Tevatron collider has such enormous potential in both discovery and measurement. The lab will also be the center of neutrino physics. It seems like a particularly good situation, and it was nice to be able to work on making it happen.”

On the Web:
Columbia University

Nevis Laboratories

University of Manchester

Manchester United


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