Long before the start-up of the Large Hadron Collider, physicist Joel Butler was helping shape the path of particle physics research in the United States. He led experiments at the Department of Energy’s Fermilab, was one of the co-founders of the lab’s Computing Division, and served on the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel.
Now, more than 30 years into his career as an experimental physicist, Butler’s responsibilities will become global as he takes the helm of one of the world’s largest physics experiments: the CMS experiment based at CERN.
“I am very happy, but I also feel a great sense of responsibility,” Butler says. “It’s a huge collaboration and I am humbled that our collaborators trust me to lead them.”
The CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) collaboration designed, constructed and is currently operating one of the two LHC detectors that co-discovered the Higgs boson in 2012. The CMS experiment is now searching at an even higher energy for phenomena beyond the Standard Model of particle physics, such as dark matter and new fundamental particles. The collaboration consists of roughly 180 collaborating institutions and 3,000 scientists.
As the spokesperson, Butler will be responsible for guiding the technical and scientific endeavors performed by universities and laboratories in more than 40 countries. He will also represent CMS in its interactions with other organizations and the public.
Tiziano Camporesi is the current spokesperson of CMS experiment. He will lead the collaboration through the LHC’s spring start up and a summer of data collection before passing the baton to Butler in September 2016. He is looking forward to working with Butler through the challenges ahead.
"We are all hoping to see some nice surprises from our data over the course of the next few years,” Camporesi says. “Butler is extremely hardworking and I’m confident he will do a good job leading the collaboration during this exciting time.”
Butler joined the CMS collaboration in 2005. He oversaw the construction of the US-funded forward pixel detector and managed the US CMS Operations Program between 2007 and 2013. He is currently helping develop upgrades that will enable the CMS detector to handle higher collision rates in the future.
During his term, Butler’s main goal is to understand the needs and abilities of CMS’s contributing institutions to maximize the scientific output of the CMS experiment and prepare the detector for the high-luminosity LHC run in 2020.
“Different nations and institutes face different challenges,” Butler says. “We are going to take a huge amount of data and will have a big workload preparing the upgrades for the next generation of the LHC, which is why we need to increase our engagement with all of our collaborators to ensure that everyone is able to contribute effectively.”
Even though Butler has spent nearly a third of his scientific career working on the CMS experiment, he admits that there is still a lot left to learn about the experiment and its collaborators.
“I talked with nearly all of our institutions and explained plans, answered questions and discussed the experiment,” Butler says. “These meetings were incredibly valuable. No matter how much I think I know about CMS, there’s always a lot more to learn.”
Butler’s term will start this fall and bring the CMS collaboration up to the end of LHC Run II in 2018, when the LHC will shut down for another round of upgrades before ramping up for Run III. Butler says he is looking forward to working with a large and diverse population of scientists at an important moment in physics history.
“It’s a fantastic group of people, and my assignment is to help them all do the best job they can for CMS,” he says.