Fermilab appoints renowned physicist Lia Merminga as first female director – Kane County Connects


Lia Merminga, an internationally renowned physicist and scientist, has been appointed to lead Fermi National Accelerator Laboratoryfrom April 18.

Merminga will be the seventh director of Fermilab and the first woman to hold this position.

Lia Merminga

The 6,800-acre facility headquartered in Batavia is the premier particle physics and accelerator laboratory in the United States. Fermilab’s mission is to shed new light on our understanding of the universe, from the smallest building blocks of matter to the deepest secrets of dark matter and dark energy.

University of Chicago President Paul Alivisatos made the announcement April 5 in his capacity as Chairman of the Board of Fermi Research Alliance, LLC, which operates the US Department of Energy.

Merminga will succeed Nigel Lockyer, who announced in September that he would resign as laboratory director after an eight-year term. She is the first woman to hold the position of director of Fermilab.

“Lia brings to this critical role an exceptional track record of success, a passion for science, a proven ability to execute major projects, a focus on the talent and diversity of the Fermilab community, and a strong commitment to national communities. high-energy physics world,” said Alivisatos.

Nigel Lockyer (left) announced in September that he would retire after eight years at the helm.

“We are grateful to Nigel for his leadership of Fermilab and his long tradition of building and strengthening the international collaboration essential to advancing scientific discovery globally,” he said. “I look forward to working with Lia as she leads the US Particle and Accelerator Physics Laboratory into a new era of exploring the fundamental questions of matter, energy, space and climate. time for the benefit of all.”

Merminga first came to Fermilab in 1987 as a student in the new graduate program in accelerator physics and completed her doctorate. thesis on the Tevatron, commissioned at the time as a collider. She was the second student to graduate from the program.

“Fermilab has given me a very rewarding career. I love the institution and am thrilled to have the opportunity to give back to the lab. Merminga said. “Following the vision of the 2014 Particle Physics Project Prioritization Group (P5), Fermilab, together with its national and international partners, has embarked on a truly ambitious range of construction projects which, when completed, will ensure the American leadership in the world’s particle physics program for decades to come.

“The flagship among them is LBNF/DUNE, the first mega-science experiment designed, built and operated internationally on American soil. My goal as Director of Fermilab is to deliver on this deep and compelling vision while continuing to deliver breakthrough science and technology innovations, activating the new P5 strategy, and realizing the full potential of the lab in development and workforce diversity, laboratory operations and regional, national development. , and international partnerships.

Merminga is currently Director of Proton Improvement Plan II or PIP-II project at Fermilaba critical upgrade to Fermilab’s accelerator complex that will deliver the world’s most intense high-energy neutrino beam to the flagship long-baseline neutrino facility and deep underground neutrino experiment and conduct a vast research program in physics.

A house for neutrino physics

Prior to her appointment as director of Fermilab, Lia Merminga was project director for the lab’s new particle accelerator called PIP-II. From 2018 to 2022, she oversaw the design and construction of this major DOE Office of High Energy Physics project, including the successful completion of a test accelerator (shown here) based on PIP-II technology. PIP-II is the first US particle accelerator to be built with significant contributions from international partners, and positions Fermilab as the world leader in accelerator-based neutrino research. Photo: Reidar Hahn, Fermilab

Merminga will lead the laboratory in its transition to become the world’s leading facility for studying neutrinos. Neutrinos are virtually invisible particles that pass through most matter without leaving a trace, but they are thought to hold key secrets about the fundamental makeup of the universe, as well as clues to the galaxy around us.

(CREDIT: Fermilab)

The laboratory’s current flagship program is the international Long Baseline Neutrino Facility and Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment. DUNE scientists will use neutrinos to answer some of the deepest questions about our universe. The LBNF, located at the Fermilab and Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, South Dakota, will produce the world’s most intense neutrino beam that will be directed to massive underground detectors 800 miles away.

The DUNE experiment brings together more than 1,400 scientists in more than 35 countries who contribute their expertise and build components of the experiment. Fermilab’s PIP-II accelerator will power the neutrino beam.

“Lia Merminga is an excellent accelerator physicist. She successfully led the PIP-II project, an international endeavor to deliver the most intense neutrino beam in the world,” said Fabiola Gianotti, Director General of CERN and member of the research committee. “Fermilab and CERN have built a very close partnership over the past decades. I look forward to working with Lia in the years to come to support current and future projects in high energy physics, continuing the very fruitful collaboration I had with outgoing Director, Nigel Lockyer.

Fermilab continues to be heavily involved in research at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider and serves as the US headquarters for the CMS experiment at the LHC, while pursuing cutting-edge research into dark matter and dark energy.

The lab leverages its expertise in accelerator and sensor technology to advance quantum information science through centers and collaborations such as the Center for Superconducting Quantum Materials and Systemsone of five national centers for quantum science.

“Lia will not only bring her scientific and leadership expertise to Fermilab, but also her ability to promote understanding and support for physics to a wider audience,” said Walter Massey, Chair of the Research Committee.

Throughout her career, Merminga has been deeply committed to building a strong regional and national science ecosystem through outreach and deeper collaboration with leading research universities, community colleges, and K- 12, as well as with the main industrial partners.

The first woman to lead Fermilab, she has been recognized for her interest in talent development and diversity, equity and inclusion. Merminga has held major scientific leadership positions, most recently at Fermilab and previously at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California; TRIUMF in Vancouver, Canada; and the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Virginia. Merminga’s appointment follows research by a committee of international scientific leaders.

“Lia impressed the search committee with her exceptional qualifications and passion for the science and people of Fermilab,” said David Gross, search committee member and past president of the American Physical Society. “We look forward to her tenure as she leads the laboratory into its future as an international home for high-energy physics.”

The committee’s unanimous recommendation to nominate Merminga was supported by the US Department of Energy and approved by the Fermi Research Alliance Board of Directors. FRA, a partnership between the University of Chicago and the Universities Research Association, operates Fermilab on behalf of the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

“Lia has been instrumental in developing strong scientific collaborations with research institutions across America and around the world in her past leadership positions, and we look forward to continued partnership as she takes on the role. as a lab director,” said Eric Barron, chairman of the University Research Association’s Board of Trustees.

Merminga has served as chair of the Fermilab Accelerator Advisory Board, a member of the influential 2014 P5 panel and numerous international advisory boards, as well as three US National Academy boards.

Merminga received his bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Athens, Greece, and a master’s degree in physics and mathematics and a doctorate in physics from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. She is a Fermilab Scientist Emeritus, a Fellow of the American Physical Society, and a graduate of the first cohort of the Department of Energy’s Oppenheimer Energy Science Leadership Program.

About Fermilab

The Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory is supported by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The Office of Science is the largest supporter of basic physical science research in the United States and works to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

SOURCE: Fermilab press release and website


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