Thursday, April 08, 2010

Life Of A LHC Operator

Symmetry Breaking has a close look at the people responsible for making sure the proton beams are running and colliding at the LHC - the LHC operators.

LHC operators are responsible for running the world’s largest particle accelerator, ensuring that all of the equipment on the seventeen-mile ring works in synchrony. The operators include machine coordinators, engineers in charge, and teams of experts who specialize in different accelerator subsystems.

Twice a day, the machine coordinator leads an informational meeting to update operators on the status of the LHC and outline the tasks at hand for operators on shift. Depending on the mode of operation, whether preparing for particle beams or colliding particles, the tasks will vary.

While these are the people you see during the commissioning process of the LHC, they tend to become the unsung heroes of the whole operation. This is because all the "physics" of the LHC reside in the several detectors that have their own group of people and collaborators. In fact, these detectors such as ATLAS, CMS, etc. have their own control rooms with their own "operators". If you hear major particle physics discoveries, they will come from these detectors. What the LHC operators, engineers, and physicists do are more of interest to those involved in studying accelerator and beam physics, which isn't one of the usually "sexy" areas of physics that get the front-page coverage. So it is nice that these people are given some recognition here.


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