John Cooper retires after 32 years of service

John Cooper

On Thursday, July 27, a reception will be held in the second-floor art gallery from 3-5 p.m. celebrating his retirement after 32 years at Fermilab. His last day is July 31.

John received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1975 and joined the strong HEP group at the University of Illinois as a postdoc working on Fermilab experiment E299. He joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania in 1979 where he continued to work on experiments at Fermilab, becoming spokesperson for E673 and the CDF test beam effort.

John joined Fermilab in 1985 working on the CDF experiment serving as operations manager and rose through the ranks to department head. In 1996 he was appointed head of the Research Division (renamed the Particle Physics Division) and served in that position until 2004. During his tenure as division head he was responsible for the construction of the SiDet-BEG engineering facility. He was also instrumental in securing funding for the CDF and DZero (outback) buildings. Stepping down as division head, he was a founding member of the NOvA collaboration and served as co-spokesperson for two years and as project manager from 2005 to the project’s completion in 2014. Under John’s leadership, the NOvA project won the DOE Secretary’s Award for Excellence in 2014. Since completion of the project he has continued to work exploring how to improve NOvA’s neutrino beam.

John left his mark on a number of people and Fermilab facilities. While on experiment E610, he arranged for Dee Hahn to be trained as a technician so that her husband, Steve, wouldn’t spend his weekends traveling back and forth to Urbana-Champaigne. In the fixed-target era and early days of CDF, he did what was needed to keep the experiments running.

Steve Hahn remembers during his CDF test beam days, “John was never afraid to get his hands dirty. If there wasn’t anything pressing one would often find him sweeping the floor.”

Later, Steve Dixon recollected that when John was division head, “John was always trying to do what was best for his people and get them what they needed to do their job. He was very level-headed, and those working for him felt that he appreciated their contribution.”

Scientist Rob Plunkett noted, “He took particular delight in scrapping the old, trailer Porta-Kamps. He had a poster on the wall with the monthly tally of how many trailers were scrapped.”

During the NOvA project, John served as the interface with lab management and the DOE, allowing everyone under him to focus on their work.

On retirement, John hopes to spend some time away from the lab. He expects to catch up on pleasure reading with his wife. On clear, warm nights one might also catch him in the yard with his telescope, contemplating the cosmos.

Come celebrate John’s contributions and wish him well on his retirement on Thursday, July 27, in the second-floor art gallery from 3-5 p.m.