In memoriam: Simon Kwan

Simon Kwan

Our dear friend and colleague Simon Kwan passed away on March 14 at age 62 after a two-year struggle with lung cancer.

Simon felt passionately that developing new and innovative detectors was critical to the health of high-energy physics. He taught in several instrumentation schools and organized workshops and conferences. He collaborated with many companies to develop new technologies. He was a long-standing member of RD50, a collaboration to develop radiation-hard sensors.

Simon received his doctorate at University of Bristol on experiment NA32. NA32 used charge-coupled devices as vertex detectors to provide precision reconstruction of charm decays. The use of silicon pixels at the much higher collision rates and radiation levels of today’s colliders became the central theme of Simon’s research.

Simon joined Fermilab in 1989 and spent his early years studying charm production using hadrons in two experiments, E769 and E791, which relied heavily on pioneering silicon vertex detectors.

Simon next took on a daunting challenge for a new experiment, BTeV, designing of a silicon pixel detector that could survive the high radiation levels of the Tevatron’s powerful colliding beams and that could be used in the first-level trigger. BTeV was terminated in 2005, just after it had passed all of its reviews. Simon always regretted that this bold and innovative detector was never built.

Simon then took over the construction of the forward pixel (FPIX) detector for the CMS experiment. He soon became one of the leaders of tracking in CMS, serving on its management board. After the delivery of the FPIX, Simon continued to lead an engineering group in the Computing Division to develop detectors that would be needed as the LHC luminosity rose. He was spokesperson of test beam efforts to tackle this problem. Despite being gravely ill, Simon helped advance the CMS upgrade project to CD-1.

Just last week, Simon, though very weak, told us that he regretted not being able to continue contributing to the upgrade and exhorted us to do a great job. Typical Simon!

Simon was a physicist of uncommon achievement, creativity and vision. We will miss him greatly. A scientific tribute in his honor will be held Saturday, March 22, at 10 a.m. in CDF conference room 327. Members of his family will be in attendance.

Joel Butler (PPD), Patricia McBride (CMS) and Alan Prosser (SCD)