UVU Physics professor Steve Wasserbaech will soon take a leave from the university for a yearlong appointment at the world-renowned CERN laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland.
CERN is a French acronym for the European Organization for Nuclear Research.
Wasserbaech will spend his sabbatical at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a gigantic scientific instrument spanning some 17 miles beneath the border between France and Switzerland.
“This is an incredible opportunity, and for it to come about right when research at the Large Hadron Collider is starting is almost too good to be true,” said Wasserbaech, whose appointment begins Aug. 1 and will continue through the 2009-2010 academic year.
According to CERN’s website, the LRC is an instrument in which two beams of subatomic particles “travel in opposite directions inside the circular accelerator, gaining energy with every lap.”
Physicists will use the LHC to recreate the conditions that existed just after the Big Bang by colliding the two beams head-on at very high energy.”
Physicists like Wasserbaech will analyze the particles created in the collisions in an attempt to figure out more about the physical universe.
“It is no exaggeration to say that the LHC is currently the most important project in the field of particle physics,” Wasserbaech said. “All of the world’s particle physicists are eager to see what the LHC will reveal.”
Last September, the LRC was turned on for its first major experiment with many fearing that the end result would be a black hole that would engulf the planet. However, the LRC was shut down after a few days due to a magnet’s failure; such a black hole has yet to occur.
“These appointments to CERN are very limited in number. While thousands work in some capacity with CERN, as few as 10 or 12 scientists from non-member nations were actually given appointments by the laboratory for this project,” said Sam Rushforth, dean of UVU’s College of Science & Health. “Dr. Steve Wasserbaech is one of the best scientists in the western United States and has unparalleled credentials.”
Wasserbaech’s appointment will not only aid the scientific community, but it may be a boon to UVU students through independent research opportunities and exercises in connection with ongoing LHC experimentation. Wasserbaech hopes to maintain a relationship with CERN after his appointment is completed.
Other achievements from CERN include the invention of the World Wide Web. Contrary to popular belief, Tim Berners-Lee, a scientist at CERN — not Al Gore — invented the World Wide Web in 1990 in an effort to share information between scientists.