“My main goal for the two years is to oversee the transition from construction to an experiment that is fully commissioned and taking physics-quality data,” Polly said.
Muon g-2 is a machine on a mission. The experiment will precisely measure a particular natural property of particles called muons – their magnetic precession – and compare that to a theoretically calculated value. The same test was carried out at Brookhaven National Laboratory in the early 2000s and threw up an intriguing result: The values were actually different.
The discrepancy between the two values could mean understanding of the theory is incomplete, suggesting the effect of previously unaccounted-for virtual particles and opening up a whole new area of particle physics. Muon g-2 at Fermilab will either refute or confirm Brookhaven’s exciting result.
Polly’s role as co-spokesperson is wide-ranging and includes providing guidance to complete the experiment’s goals and promoting the experiment outside Fermilab.
“Part of my job is to spread the excitement and importance of our physics program to the public, the agencies and the broader high-energy physics community,” Polly said.
He’s also aware of the challenges the role will bring.
“By far our biggest challenge will be bringing all the pieces together and moving from commissioning to taking physics-quality data,” he said. “During our engineering run we discovered a few areas of the experiment that need improvement, and overall we still need to achieve an enormous increase in the number of muons entering the experiment.”
The outgoing co-spokesperson on the experiment is Lee Roberts from Boston University.
“Chris Polly was Dave Hertzog’s [Muon g-2’s other co-spokesperson] student on the Brookhaven g-2 experiment, so he understands the experiment very well,” Roberts said. “His leadership as project manager for g-2 demonstrated his leadership ability. I think he’ll do an excellent job as co-spokesperson.”
The Muon g-2 experiment is supported by a collaboration of around 190 scientists from 35 institutions in eight countries around the world, and Polly hopes that number will grow.
“We are an experiment with many people oversubscribed, and we would welcome a new group,” he said. “Who knows — maybe one of our postdocs will bring the Fermilab muon program to a new university. That would be fantastic.”
Polly’s role will also include working with the collaboration to ensure all voices are heard and appropriately credited.
“It has been great to see the beautiful device from my thesis work move to Fermilab and begin a new life,” Polly said. “It’s a very exciting time to see the experiment come to life after five years of design and construction.”
He adds, “I really appreciate the trust from the collaboration in electing me to this position, and I look forward to working with such an outstanding group of people.”