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Fermilab leader promises important work will go on

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

BATAVIA — While the Tevatron will close, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory still will have its place of importance in the world of physics research, Fermilab Director Pier Oddone said Wednesday.

The laboratory had anticipated the landmark particle accelerator would be closing in the next three years, and Fermilab received word from the U.S. Department of Energy last week that it will halt funding for the accelerator in September.

On Wednesday, Oddone addressed employees from the stage of Ramsey Auditorium, saying the lab’s future is “very strong and bright” as they focus on other experiments that fall in three frontiers of particle physics.

Oddone said the laboratory is involved in projects already under way and in the research phase that will position Fermilab in importance for the next two decades.

As Fermilab was a leader in the “energy” frontier, it will shift and be leader in the “intensity” frontier, where instead of creating particles of the highest energy, it will create the largest amount of particles, Oddone said.

“We are looking at something very elusive, neutrinos or very rare particles … that are even beyond what the Large Hadron Collider can find,” Oddone said.

The Large Hadron Collider, at the CERN laboratory on the French-Swiss border, has replaced the Tevatron as the world’s top accelerator.

Fermilab will partner with Europe on the LHC, but shift its physics research to other projects.

Oddone said Fermilab has other projects that fall in the energy (origin of mass), intensity (neutrino physics) and cosmic frontiers (dark energy).

Fermilab’s strategy, he said, is to develop the most powerful set of facilities in the world for the study of neutrinos “way beyond the present state-of-the-art” and complimentary to the LHC.

“There are lots of mysteries that we are after, and we want to use all of the tools at our disposal to try to understand them,” Oddone said after his presentation.

“The Tevatron has performed outstanding, and we expect to collect a significant sample of data” before the accelerator is shut down. He said the analysis will continue three to four years beyond the closing of the operations of the Tevatron.

“There is such a rich probe of data that we will be analyzing it for years to come and many important physics results are also yet to come from the data,” he said.

As for the effect on staffing, Oddone said, “We need to match the work force to the tasks we have in front of us and live within the budgets for fiscal year 11 and fiscal year 12, which have not yet been defined.”

Oddone said about 100 jobs could be affected, depending on budget actions by the Obama administration and Congress.

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