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Joachim Mnich, Director For Research And Computing At CERN

New Insights On The Horizon

The recent LHCP2023 meeting in Belgrade provided a platform to explore numerous novel and captivating physics findings that are fundamental to CERN’s work. In this insightful interview with Joachim Mnich, Director for Research and Computing at CERN, we shed light on the next steps in humanity’s quest to unravel the mysteries surrounding the Higgs boson and enigmatic Dark Matter

CERN, as a pioneering institution in fundamental physics research, spearheads the expansion of our understanding of the universe through scientific exploration, technological advancements and collaborative endeavours. By pushing the boundaries of knowledge and fostering interdisciplinary collaboration, CERN actively drives innovation, blazing the trail for future breakthroughs. CERN’s physicists and engineers utilise state-of-the-art scientific instruments to explore the fundamental particles that comprise matter. By accelerating subatomic particles and causing them to collide at near-light speeds, they gain insights into particle interactions and uncover the fundamental laws of nature. The primary objective is to push the boundaries of human knowledge by delving into the intricate components that form our universe.

Serbia became CERN’s 23rd Member State on 24th March, 2019, though its association with the organisation dates back to its time as part of the former Yugoslavia, which was one of the 12 founding Member States in 1954. Serbian physicists and engineers played an active role in early CERN projects, contributing to the development of facilities like the SC, PS and SPS.

CERN’s collaborative environment drives innovation. Its technologies have had far-reaching impacts in healthcare, environmental protection, aerospace, cryptography and more

During the 1980s and ‘90s, Serbian physicists participated in the DELPHI experiment at CERN’s LEP collider. In 1991, Serbia and CERN established an International Cooperation Agreement, facilitating Serbia’s engagement in various projects. This includes participation in the ATLAS and CMS experiments at the Large Hadron Collider, collaboration in the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid, and involvement in the ACE and NA61 experiments.

Serbia’s primary involvement with CERN today centres around the ATLAS and CMS experiments. Serbia additionally contributes to research conducted at the ISOLDE facility, encompassing studies ranging from nuclear physics to astrophysics. Serbia also participates actively in design studies for future particle colliders, such as the FCC (Future Circular Collider) and CLIC (Compact Linear Collider), which have the potential to become flagship projects for CERN.

Serbia’s participation in CERN is a vital component of its strategy to implement the Smart Specialisation Strategy and drive scientific and industrial advancements. However, the industrial return to Serbia – when compared with all its membership dues to CERN – has so far been minimal. One of the ways to balance the two directions of this cooperation is to revive the development and application of accelerator technologies in Serbia, specifically through the completion of the construction of the TESLA Accelerator Installation at the Vinča Institute of Nuclear Sciences, which should be approved by the government of Serbia. Furthermore, the feasibility of establishing the Southeast European International Institute for Sustainable Technologies, which received support from CERN in 2017, within the scope of the Berlin Initiative for the Western Balkans, should be remade with the possible return to TESLA as its core.

The LHCP2023 meeting in Belgrade marked the first inperson event of the conference series since the pandemic, at which LHC experiments presented numerous new and intriguing physics results

Given the significance of CERN’s potential for society and its own Member States, it is crucial for experts and the general public to gain deeper insights.

We had the privilege of interviewing Joachim Mnich, director for research and computing at CERN, to discuss some of the major developments in this regard. Our interview began by addressing the recent conference that was held in Belgrade during May.

What are the major takeaways from the LHCP 2023 Conference that was held in Belgrade in May?

– The LHCP2023 meeting in Belgrade was the first in-person event of this conference series after the pandemic. More than 350 scientists attended the conference, including a large number of young people. The LHC experiments presented many new and interesting physics results.

The large data sample collected so far, together with improved analysis techniques, often based on machine learning, allow for the establishing of very rare processes and increasing the precision of measurements. Examples are the observation of very rare decay modes of the Higgs boson and the precise determination of the mass inof the W boson, an important parameter of the Standard Model of particle physics.

Could you briefly explain to our readers, who are generally neither experimenters nor theorists, the major value of these scientific advances in terms of this endeavour’s industrial impact?

– Scientific advances are based on new technologies, in the case of the LHC in the areas of particle accelerators and detectors, as well as information technology. Key technologies employed at the LHC span a very wide range, including examples like cryogenics and vacuum technology, precision mechanics, micro-electronics and artificial intelligence.

Fundamental research might seem distant from our everyday lives, but CERN is a unique collaborative environment that provides a fertile ground for innovation. The world wide web, for instance, was invented at CERN. More recently, CERN technologies have impacted healthcare, environmental protection, the aerospace industry, cryptography and more…

Fundamental research might seem distant from our everyday lives, but CERN is a unique collaborative environment that provides fertile ground for innovation. The world wide web, for instance, was invented at CERN

Education is also at the core of CERN’s mission: young scientists and engineers at CERN are trained on such modern technologies. After their career in research, the majority of them bring their knowledge and experience to industry and business.

What is the next step you are working on in terms of scientific advancements? How have the technologies you rely on evolved to enable this?

– We are preparing an upgrade of the LHC to increase the rate of particle collisions by a factor 5-10. This so-called High Luminosity LHC, or HL-LHC for short, will start operating in 2029 and will enable experiments to study even rarer processes, giving a more detailed and sharper view of the Higgs boson.

We will perhaps be able to shed light on the mysterious Dark Matter, which is five times more abundant in the Universe than ordinary matter, but which only interacts with it very weakly. To make this step in enhancing the science potential, new and stronger super-conducting magnets based on new materials have to be developed.

The detectors also have to be upgraded to take advantage of the higher collision rate. Finer and more precise detectors are required to reconstruct the collisions in a much more complicated environment. One example are detectors with a very good time resolution below a tenth of a billionth of a second. Another key development required is radiation hard electronics, which has to withstand a much higher dose than current detectors for many years.

New environmentally-friendly cooling technologies are being developed to improve the capacity while at the same time reducing the environmental footprint of the detectors.

ENVIRONMENT

Innovative, environmentally-friendly cooling technologies are being developed to enhance the capacity of detectors while reducing their environmental footprint

EXPERTISE

CERN’s mission includes educating young scientists and engineers who later bring their expertise to industry and business

BREAKTHROUGHS

Upgrading the LHC to the High Luminosity LHC (HL-LHC) will enable the study of rarer processes, including the Higgs boson and Dark Matter

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