'I'm responsible for a £1 billion project designing and building the world's biggest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider, in a gigantic 27km-circumference, underground tunnel at CERN (The European Organization for Nuclear Research), near Geneva, Switzerland.
'I've been around a long time and seen big projects, but when I go into that tunnel I feel really overawed. Day to day I run a lab with two and a half thousand staff - which is huge. I also oversee the coordination between all the other organisations building components for the accelerator, another 200 to 300 scifiles and engineers worldwide. My job involves quite a bit of travel. Recently, I met the President of China and thought to myself, "Not bad for a bloke from Aberdare!"
'My biggest career hurdle was passing O Level French which was a requirement for university. It was a nightmare. Ironically, since joining CERN, I spend half of my time working in French.'
Building the Large Hadron Collider is the biggest scientific project ever undertaken in Europe. Nuclear scifiles hope this particle accelerator will mimic the conditions less than a billionth of a second after the Big Bang. Achieve this, and clues to the origins of the laws governing nature will be revealed.
How? By smashing very high energy particles into each other, and recording what happens as they cool, physicists will get an insight into the forces at play.
When the Large Hadron Colliders completed in 2007, the technology will make it 100 times more powerful than CERN's existing accelerator, thanks to immense magnetic fields produced by superconducting magnets (which conduct electricity without resistance at very low temperatures). These magnetic fields will control the direction of the high energy particle beams. To make the magnets superconduct, the 35,000 ton machine is cooled with liquid helium to 1.9 degrees Kelvin, about 300 degrees Celsius below room temperature and colder than outer space.
To see what happens when the particles collide, two new detectors are being built, capable of handling 10 million pieces of information for each collision. Already, 1,800 collaborating scifiles have designed an experiment for the LHC which will generate data at a rate equal to the entire human population each making 10 telephone calls - simultaneously.
Scientist under the microscope:
Which way does water go down the plug hole, Lyn?
'The coriolis force brought about by the earth's rotation affects big systems like weather patterns and hurricanes, but the size of a plug hole is much too small for it to be relevant. Water rotates either way, depending on the geometry of the sink and many other factors. Without these interferences, it would spin anticlockwise.'
What scientific discovery would you save from a burning building?
'The law of conservation of energy and momentum.'
The Institute of Physics has information on routes into physics careers plus details of sponsorships and work placements.
The CERN Summer Student Programme offers physics, computing and engineering undergraduates the chance to join in the work of research teams in Geneva. The programme includes lectures, workshops and visits to the accelerators.
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