All dressed up

In 1990, Penny Kasper, Danying Yi and I were all graduate students on the E791 experiment. Part of the detector, controls and data acquisition system had been modified from the previous experiment, E769, so everything had to be tested before we got the first beams.

Jean Slaughter, who was in charge of the day-to-day operation of the experiment, announced we would have a “dress rehearsal.” Being a non-native English speaker, I had no clue what that meant. I asked Jean what would I have to do. She simply replied: “Just stand there and look pretty.” So I decided to take it literally and convinced Penny and Danying to join in.

Just before the dress rehearsal, we all snuck out and came back to the control room dressed to the nines. Penny wore her best dress, Danying put on the special wedding dress her mother had sent her from China (hoping to encourage her to get married), and I wore my mother’s copper satin wedding dress.

When we showed up in the control room, our colleagues all looked puzzled. Most had a great laugh, even though I suspect many of them just thought we were plain nuts.

From left: Penny Kasper, Pauline Gagnon and Danying Yi take part in a dress rehearsal in the E791 control room. Photo courtesy of Pauline Gagnon

Pauline Gagnon was a scientist at CERN and a member of CERN’s communication group. She is the author of a popular science book on particle physics, “Who Cares about Particle Physics: Making Sense of the Higgs Boson, the Large Hadron Collider and CERN.”