Utrecht-based particle physicist and Nikhef researcher dr. Marco van Leeuwen will be the new spokesperson for the ALICE experiment at CERN. This was decided by the collaboration on Wednesday.
A spokesperson in particle physics is the president of a collaboration and the first representative of the scientific enterprise to the outside world. ALICE is one of the four large underground detectors at the Large Hadron Collider accelerator at CERN in Geneva. More than 1800 scientists from 41 countries, including the Netherlands, are working together in the collaboration.
ALICE stands for “A Large Ion Collider Experiment” and is set up to study collisions of heavy atomic nuclei of lead, for example. The other detectors mainly study colliding protons in the accelerator.
In such heavy-core collisions, at high temperature and pressure, the primordial matter that must have existed just after the Big Bang is created in so-called plasmas of quarks and gluons. In the plasmas the strong nuclear forces that govern nuclear particles such as protons can be studied.
Through Nikhef, the Netherlands has traditionally been an important partner in ALICE and supplier of measuring techniques and equipment. Most of the Dutch research with the detector takes place at Utrecht University, one of the partners in Nikhef. The detector has been substantially rebuilt and improved over the past few years in view of the upcoming run3 of the LHC accelerator.
Van Leeuwen (46) previously worked as physics coordinator of ALICE for several years and recently became the coordinator for yet another phase of the large particle experiment, ALICE3 after 2034. This also involves working with smaller atomic nuclei than lead, to achieve even greater precision in measurements.
Van Leeuwen calls his election Wednesday as spokesperson for ALICE a great honor. He will start his new job in January 2023 for a period of three years. Nikhef director Stan Bentvelsen speaks of a wonderful appointment. “Such a prominent position in a major international experiment is fantastic advertising for Dutch particle physics and Nikhef.”