Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015
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One minute with Chris Olsen, senior particle accelerator operator

When Chris Olsen isn't working in the Main Control Room, he's attending to one of his many hobbies, including old photography. Photo: Reidar Hahn

How long have you been at Fermilab?

Almost 16 years.

What path led you here?

I have a degree in history. After working a couple of years outside of the lab — at a hardware store, as a prototyping machinist, driving a school bus — I decided I wanted to do something else. I'd worked at the campus particle accelerator lab all four years of college and had built a couple particle accelerators at home. I brought my own cyclotron to my interview here. I think they hired me to keep an eye on me.

What is your typical day here like?

Operators run the machines to provide beam as needed to the experiments. It's a very catchall job. If anything goes wrong, we're the first line of defense. At the beginning of a shift, we meet with the off-going crew chief and read a logbook for instructions. Then we go into the control room to get more specific information for whatever machine we're taking over. Then we'll sit there, answer phones and tune the machines. If something trips off we'll either go and fix it or see if one of the techs can fix it.

What's the most exciting part of your job?

I enjoy the interaction with people from all over. And I enjoy talking to tours. I got to speak with the remaining crew of the Enola Gay when they came through. As a historian, that was amazing. I also enjoy going out in the field to fix stuff. My forte is hardware.

You recently had some photographs in an employee art show. Can you tell me about your photography?

I'm a student of 19th-century photography. I do daguerreotypes and wet plate collodion, which are the two first photographic processes that were commercially successful. Being an operator gives me the very special privilege of taking my camera equipment into the accelerator complex and using this 150-year-old process to take pictures of it. I also do backstage concert photography and take pictures of Civil War reenactors. I used to do my own 18th-century reenactment, so I give these pictures to the Civil War reenactors as gifts.

Is there anything people might not know about you?

My friends call me the man of a thousand hobbies. I build medieval crossbows. I teach woodworking and blacksmithing at Four Winds Waldorf School. My kids go there. I have a hundred-year-old sock knitting machine that I make socks with. I'm restoring a 1923 Model T. Working here has actually allowed me to do all this. Talking with colleagues has expanded my creativity and artistic side.

Chris Patrick

In the News

Connecting the Higgs mass with cosmic history

From Physics, Nov. 23, 2015

The mass of the recently discovered Higgs particle is one of the greatest mysteries in present-day particle physics. While much larger than the mass of most known elementary particles, it is far smaller than other energy scales. Within our current understanding of quantum mechanics and relativity, this disparity is puzzling and is referred to as the hierarchy or naturalness problem. One popular explanation is provided by a hypothesized new symmetry of nature, supersymmetry.

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Wellness Feature of the Month

December fitness classes and complimentary wellness

Complimentary Wellness

Lunch and Learn: We've Got Your Back
Wednesday, Dec. 16, noon-1 p.m.
Fitness Center Exercise Room will be open.
Reserve your spot by Dec.15 by emailing Megan Diehm.

Learn low-impact exercises to increase flexibility and strengthen your backs.


January Fitness Classes

Mat Pilates
Mondays, Jan. 4-Feb. 22 (no class Jan. 18), noon-12:45 p.m.
Fitness Center Exercise Room
$87. Register by Dec. 28.

Muscle Toning
Tuesdays and Thursday, Jan. 5-Feb. 25, 5-6 p.m.
Fitness Center Exercise Room
$82. Register by Dec. 29.

Line Dancing
Tuesdays, Jan. 5-March 1 (no class Feb. 23), 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
Kuhn Barn upper level
$65. Register by Dec. 29.

Mondays and/or Thursdays, noon-12:45 p.m.

Zumba Fitness
Thursdays, noon-12:45 p.m.

Zumba Toning
Tuesdays, noon-12:45 p.m.


Pickleball Open Gym
Mondays, 4-6 p.m., and/or Wednesdays, noon-2 p.m.

Gym membership required to participate. Free trial available. Contact Jeanne at jecker@fnal.gov or x2548.


Employee Discounts
Regal Cinema and AMC Theater Movie Tickets
RX Auto Care
Warrenville Oil Express


Visit the employee discount Web page for more discount information.

Photo of the Day

Ring of lights

Tevatron, Diwali, lights, festival
Aarti Veernala set up this Tevatron-shaped light installation for Diwali, known as the festival of lights. Photo: Seyda Ipek, PPD
In the News

Supercomputing the strange difference between matter and antimatter

From Phys.org, Nov. 20, 2015

An international team of physicists including theorists from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory has published the first calculation of direct "CP" symmetry violation — how the behavior of subatomic particles (in this case, the decay of kaons) differs when matter is swapped out for antimatter. Should the prediction represented by this calculation not match experimental results, it would be conclusive evidence of new, unknown phenomena that lie outside of the Standard Model — physicists' present understanding of the fundamental particles and the forces between them.

The current result — reported in the November 20 issue of Physical Review Letters — does not yet indicate such a difference between experiment and theory, but scientists expect the precision of the calculation to improve dramatically now that they've proven they can tackle the task. With increasing precision, such a difference — and new physics — might still emerge.

Read more