Rick Coleman was a graduate student at the University of Illinois when he first came to the lab in 1974. The lab had just gotten a new name — Fermilab — and Coleman was working on E-87A in the Proton Area.
Forty-three years, 11 experiments and many projects later, Coleman is retiring. His last day is July 10.
“Rick is a real expert on beamlines,” said Tom Kobilarcik, head of the External Beams Group in the Accelerator Division. “He’s very knowledgeable and very easy-going. It’s easy to work with him.”
Coleman received his Ph.D. in 1977, three years after he first came to Fermilab, and worked here on three experiments as a postdoctoral researcher. During his first postdoc at the University of Chicago he conducted research for E444. For his second postdoc at the University of Rochester, he worked on E595 and E616.
The lab hired him as a full-time employee in December 1981, when he began parallel work as both an experimental particle physics researcher and a scientist who works on beamlines. His first job as a member of lab staff was to help design the Meson Lab beamline upgrades for Tevatron operations. At the same time, he continued his neutrino research, specifically on E701. Two years later he joined three kaon experiments — E731, E 773, E799 — while also conducting more beam work, this time on the neutral-beam facility for those experiments. Two years after that, in 1985 and now as a member of the Research Division, he came on board E581 while helping with the Meson Polarized Beam Facility.
In 1989 Coleman moved from the Research Division to the Accelerator Division, where he spent a good deal of time in the Main Control Room tuning the Switchyard beamlines and helping improve beam instrumentation and controls.
Fermilab retired scientist Craig Moore, who was also Coleman’s supervisor, recalls a particular evening shift in the 1990s during which Coleman sorted out a beamline problem ahead of an important upcoming review. Both had been monitoring how instruments responded as they moved beam in a beam pipe. As they moved beam away from the center of the pipe, they received a positive reading on the loss monitor, as expected, meaning that the beam was straying from the pipe’s center.
“But then as we moved it even further away, that reading went away. This confused us,” Moore said. “Rick sat down with a little sketch, pencil and ruler, and explained the confusion with a sketch of the instrumentation geometry inside the beam pipe.”
Just in time for the review.
Coleman returned to the Research Division in 1994 and worked full-time on the KTeV experiment as a secondary beam manager.
“That nicely aligned with my research interests,” Coleman said.
He continued on KTeV through a transition to, again, the Accelerator Division in 1997. He also worked on the CKM proposal and the Meson Test Beam upgrade. In 2008 he started on the Mu2e experiment, one of the lab’s major intensity frontier programs. Most recently he served as L3 manager for the Mu2e target station.
“Even though he’s been spending a lot of time on Mu2e, anyone in the group can tap him if they have a question,” Kobilarcik said. “He’ll answer as best he can, which is usually pretty good.”
Coleman plans to continue at Fermilab as a part-time guest scientist.
“I hope to enjoy more time with my family, hobbies and a home project or two,” Coleman said.
“His being gone is going to be a big loss to the group,” Kobilarcik said. “He’s always been our secret on-call guy.”