Kicking off Fermilab’s next 50 years: the 51st Fermilab annual Users Meeting

Editor’s note: The Users Executive Committee plans the annual Fermilab Users Meeting, and they are currently accepting nominations for six new members for the 2018-20 committee. Find out more at uec.fnal.gov.

Every summer since the beginning of Fermilab, the user community has gotten together to discuss and celebrate the scientific and technological achievements produced at the lab during the previous year and, in general, any relevant topic for the community. This year the theme of the meeting was “​A Vision for Science and Culture,” which looked at ways to strengthen the role of science in society.

More than 500 participants from different experiments, universities, and areas at Fermilab, including employees, converged for a two-day conference from June 20-21. It featured 10 exhibits from vendors who supported the meeting. As usual, the meeting was preceded by the New Perspectives conference for students and postdocs, organized by the Fermilab Student and Postdoc Association, and Festa Italiana, a wonderful feast organized by the Fermilab Italian users community for meeting attendees.

We had exciting talks, most of them from early-career scientists representing experimental and theoretical approaches to look for new physics opportunities. Topics included CMS, muon physics, particle astrophysics, dark matter, neutrino experiments and the final Tevatron analyses from CDF and DZero. The agenda also included reports about activity at various laboratory facilities, including the Test Beam Facility; the technological and R&D sides of research, such as advances in the Fermilab Technical and Accelerator divisions; and quantum computing developments, presented by the Scientific Computing Division.

Along with the presentations on leading efforts and scientific innovations, other talks and activities enforced our commitment to the relationship between science and culture and the impact of our work on society.

Users Executive Committee Chair Sowjanya Gollapinni noted that the talk by Sarah Tuttle on the first day, titled ​”How We Create Inclusive Communities,”​ triggered a lot of discussion in the audience. She highlighted how Professor Tuttle calls on to scientists to lean over from their comfort zone into a growth zone to actively address diversity and inclusion issues. She also noted that Sarah’s message is a powerful one and, hopefully, should encourage more in-depth conversations on the topic in the physics community.

University of Washington scientist Sarah Tuttle discusses inclusion and diversity in science. Photo: Reidar Hahn

University of Washington scientist Sarah Tuttle discusses inclusion and diversity in science. Photo: Reidar Hahn

Gollapinni also commented on the fascinating keynote lecture by Brown University Professor Jim Gates, who talked about his life and career and emphasized the importance of diversity in thought in science. She particularly highlighted this quote from Professor Gates’s talk: “Imagination is what’s driving the edge of knowledge … That’s why you want to have people who think differently in that process” and noted that the Fermilab community was excited to meet a role model like him!

Brown University Professor James Gates gives the keynote address at the Users Meeting. Photo: Reidar Hahn

Brown University Professor James Gates gives the keynote address at the Users Meeting. Photo: Reidar Hahn

Members of the UEC and Directorate meet for a panel discussion in which attendees could feel free to voice their questions and suggestions about lab programs. Photo: Reidar Hahn

Members of the UEC and Directorate meet for a panel discussion in which attendees could feel free to voice their questions and suggestions about lab programs. Photo: Reidar Hahn

During lunch, a UEC and Directorate panel created a space for the users to bring up questions, concerns and suggestions. The idea is to hold similar discussions on various user topics in the future.

At the end of the first day, early-career scientists brought their energy to the poster session, where 36 posters showcased the great quality of scientific research. After enjoying attending the 50th anniversary Users Meeting last year and getting to hear about all of the cool things happening at Fermilab, poster contest winner Rachel Osofsky, University of Washington, said she decided to present a poster this time to show her work to the broader Fermilab community. Not sure what to expect, given that this poster session was her first, she said she found that she got to answer interesting questions, and wide-ranging ones, too, given the variety of science backgrounds of those who attended.

The annual Poster Session showcases the excellent work of early-career scientists who conduct their research at Fermilab. Photo: Reidar Hahn

The annual Poster Session showcases the excellent work of early-career scientists who conduct their research at Fermilab. Photo: Reidar Hahn

The poster session winners were, from left, Rory Fitzpatrick of the University of Michigan (second prize), Ivan Lepetic of the Illinois Institute of Technology (third prize) and Rachel Osofsky of the University of Washington (first prize). Photo: Reidar Hahn

The poster session winners were, from left, Rory Fitzpatrick of the University of Michigan (second prize), Ivan Lepetic of the Illinois Institute of Technology (third prize) and Rachel Osofsky of the University of Washington (first prize). Photo: Reidar Hahn

The Users Meeting also included several new initiatives to foster a sense of community between all users and to arm users with skills that aren’t typically in a Ph.D. program. At the first science communication training session ever hosted at a Users Meeting, the Office of Communication’s Andre Salles offered valuable tools to improve the communication of science to nonscientists. This year, we also launched a Fermilab Users Slack workspace, which included a Users Meeting channel, to expand ways people could participate, enabling attendees to continue their discussions about the presentations and ask more questions between people from different research areas.

Andre Salles conducts a communication training session at the Users Meeting. Photo: Reidar Hahn

Andre Salles conducts a communication training session at the Users Meeting. Photo: Reidar Hahn

Users Meeting Subcommittee Chair Tammy Walton said she hoped the new initiatives would encourage users to attend physics talks outside of their domain and become permanent components of the meeting — and even improve in the future.

Some challenges that we need to face for future Users Meetings are the relative low attendance to the plenary sessions (between 100 and 200 people) and passive Q&A periods for some of them. In the coming weeks, we will conduct a survey for all users to evaluate the Users Meeting and the quality of life at Fermilab. We encourage all users to fill out the survey as your feedback will be crucial to improve our future activities.

Fermilab Chief Operating Officer Tim Meyer remarked that this Users Meeting was particularly special: Having celebrated the lab’s first 50 years, we are now launching the next 50 years, during which we will move to a more global era, doing science outside Fermilab. Examples include our work at the LHC, LBNF/DUNE and the current short- and long-baseline neutrino programs, where users will continue to be important piece of the Fermilab community. Tim added that Fermilab wants to provide the experimental conditions where users from all over the world and different research areas can do great science. The Users Meeting, he said, should create a sense of community that helps us move forward, facilitating and creating the synergy that connects all areas of particle physics and even beyond, including industry and university partners interested in the particle physics technology.

The UEC would like to thank all people who contributed to the success of this meeting, particularly the Conference and Communication offices, the Directorate, the Universities Research Association, the Fermilab Student and Postdoc Association, the poster judges, as well as all speakers and attendees for their participation.

Organizing this meeting and other activities throughout the last year have been an excellent experience for all of us UEC members, and we would like to encourage all users to participate in the upcoming election for the next term. The nomination period is now open to serve a two-year term 2018-2020. See more details on the UEC webpage, uec.fnal.gov.

Fermilab scientist Leonidas Aliaga Soplin is a member of the UEC Users Meeting Subcommittee.