CERN changes. New leadership for world’s largest particle physics laboratory.

CERN Gets New Head

Europe's premiere accelerator laboratory (CERN) last week elected French physicist Robert Aymar as the next director-general. His biggest challenge will be keeping CERN on track as it develops its flagship accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC)--the most powerful atom smasher planned--which is half a billion dollars over budget.

Aymar might seem like an unusual choice to head up a particle physics lab, because his background is in plasma physics. But he has the management experience that CERN needs, says Jean-Pierre Ruder, the Swiss delegate to the CERN council. Aymar is currently director-general of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, a multibillion-dollar international plasma-physics project currently in the planning stages.

Aymar is already deeply involved with the LHC, which is expected to cost about $2 billion and to come on line in 2007. The LHC will be powerful enough discover the Higgs boson, the particle that theorists think is responsible for objects' having mass. Aymar helped with the original design of the LHC and was the chair of the LHC external review committee that was convened last year when the accelerator ran into budgetary problems (Science, 29 March, p. 2341). "I was involved in the decisions about the LHC at all levels," Aymar says. Aymar replaces Italian physicist Luciano Maiani, whose term as director-general has just expired.

In other news, India, which has been participating in CERN experiments for more than a decade, has been named the newest CERN observer state. (Observer states, such as the United States, can sit in on council meetings.) "India was very happy at being given the observer status, for it was a well-earned recognition of the scientific and technical contribution Indians have been making at CERN," says Ravi Bhushan Grover, director of India's Strategic Planning Group of the Department of Atomic Energy in Mumbai.

with reporting by Pallava Bagla.

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