One minute with Charles Thangaraj, IARC science and technology officer

Charles Thangaraj works to integrate technologies developed at Fermilab into a compact SRF accelerator. Photo: Reidar Hahn

How long have you been at Fermilab?

I’ve been here almost eight years.

What do you do at the Illinois Accelerator Research Center?

Right now, I am involved in taking the best of Fermilab inventions, across all the scientific and technical developments, and integrating them into a compact SRF accelerator. My job is cross-functional and involves breaking silos, which I relish. I also assist the Office of Partnerships and Technology Transfer on technology issues.

How do you balance the science, technology and business sides? What is your goal at IARC?

It is like having binoculars with two different lenses. One is a telescopic lens with an ability to see market trends from afar, and the other is a microscopic ability to see grainy details. Once I get a glimpse of this vision, it is relatively simple to decide where to focus to achieve balance of purpose.

At IARC our goal is to develop, transfer and use Fermilab technologies to create and add value to the broader U.S. innovation ecosystem. Not just on scientific advancement, but also on solving 21st century issues: cleaner water, transportation, advanced manufacturing, medicine and security. Can accelerator science be a part of this? I believe it can.

What is a typical day for you like?

There is a spectrum to this. It could go from reading technical articles on accelerator science to putting our heads together to solve an experimental puzzle to engaging with various IARC partners and stakeholders inside and outside the lab. Fits my omnivorous attentiveness or inattentiveness.

What do you enjoy about working at Fermilab?

When I was a child, my mother always asked after I came home from school, “Did you ask a good question today?”. That made me a scientist. When you come to Fermilab, you’re surrounded by questioning people. At Fermilab, we never surrender a good question for a mere answer.

I am fascinated by the mix of cultures here. Thanks to my generous friends at Fermilab, as an Easterner, I have learned to appreciate other cultures and its nuances. I am still learning!

What’s something that people may not know about you?

I got married because I came to Fermilab. It’s a complicated story, but I when I came here to interview for the Peoples Fellowship in the summer of 2009, I met with a family and they put me in touch with their cousin — Sophia, my wife.

What do you do outside the lab?

We are a young family. I have a five-year old son and a one-year old daughter.  So, I mostly spend time with them.

I love reading and enjoy poetry.  I am from Tamil Nadu, a classical culture that has made a lasting impact on the power of imagination through language, arts and movies. Of course, as an Indian, I am a movie buff.