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Monday, January 14, 2013

Part 3: Northern Irish Scientist Works to Prove Higgs Boson Exists

Steve Myers was born in West Belfast, Northern Ireland and was taught mathematics and physics by priests, one of whom was the younger brother of the Cardinal of Ireland.

He more or less stumbled into electrical engineering at Queen’s University Belfast. He and four other friends were applying to the University. Only one of them had an idea of what to study. That young man’s father was an engineer who said electrical engineering was a profession under demand. All five of the young men, including Steve, put electrical engineering on the top of their applications.

This was a fortuitous choice for Steve as he eventually received a PhD from Queen’s University in Belfast.

He had another brush with synchronicity when his invitation to CERN was delayed by a long postal strike until the day before he was due in Geneva. He rushed to the interview and while waiting to be invited before the interviewers, he picked up a paper lying on the waiting room table. He noticed the term and concept of the "head tail instability" which has to do with electrons hitting the walls of the particle accelerator causing more electrons to leave the wall, creating an electron cloud that reduces the quality of the beam. Unknown to Steve at the time, this was a prime concern of his interviewers.

The resulting job, which he started in 1972, was Engineer-in-Charge of the operation of the Intersecting Storage Rings Collider (ISR). In 1979 he started working on the Large Electron–Positron Collider (LEP) which was the most ambitious collider to be built in its day. The design, approval, and construction took 10 years. A 27 km tunnel was excavated about 100 m underground with four large underground expansions of the cavern to house the detectors.

In the 1990s, he was chosen to be the Deputy Leader of the SPS (Super Proton Synchrotron)-LEP (SL) Division in charge of preparing the LEP Collider for physics. From 1996 until 2000, he was Project Leader of the LEP upgrade (LEP2). In 2000 Myers became Leader of the SPS-LHC (Large Hadron Collider)(SL) Division and in 2003 he rose to be Head of the Accelerator and Beams (AB) Department.

In 2009, he was appointed to be in charge of all the accelerator and technology activities at CERN as Director of Accelerators and Technology. Thus, he is in charge of the organization that has produced these groundbreaking results while it simultaneously uses all its colliders and develops new projects.

Through all these changes and challenges within the organizational hierarchy, he has stayed intimately familiar with how to coax the particles successfully around all the rings at CERN. Not bad for a young man from West Belfast who barely knew what electrical engineering was when he launched onto that career path.

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If you want to learn more about West Belfast and the efforts to achieve peace, click here.

Did you miss earlier posts in this series? Click here to go to the first post.
                                                                 Click here to go to the second post.

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