Scientist Victor Yarba retires after more than 26 years at Fermilab

Victor Yarba

Victor Yarba first came to Fermilab from the Institute for High-Energy Physics in Russia in 1974, following a one-and-a-half-year research term at CERN. Fermilab made an impression on him as a truly international laboratory, as CERN was known to be, and 20 years later, he began working at Fermilab as a scientist. Now he is retiring. His last day is Feb. 28.

Yarba’s rich, quarter-century career at Fermilab began when he came to work for the Superconducting Super Collider in 1992. Two years later, he came to Fermilab at what was then called the Technical Support Section. As the head of the Engineering and Fabrication Department, he helped design and build the Main Injector magnets, the Recycler permanent magnets, and the muon chambers for the CMS detector at the Large Hadron Collider. He also helped develop and build some of the superconducting quadrupole magnets for the LHC.

Yarba was later appointed associate division head for R&D, and he proposed to then Director Mike Witherell a program for working on superconducting accelerating cavities for the International Linear Collider. He helped develop the program, assisting in organizing scientists and engineers to pursue this area of R&D. Fermilab is now a pioneer in superconducting accelerator science — with well-developed technology and world-class expertise — thanks in large part to the incubator that was the ILC program.

Working under John Peoples, Fermilab’s third director, and scientist Peter Limon, Yarba was instrumental in the reorganization of the Technical Support Section into the Technical Division. He also worked closely with a number of Technical Division heads — including Limon, Bob Kephart, Marc Ross, Giorgio Apollinari, Hasan Padamsee and Sergey Belomestnykh — in carrying out proposals to advance Fermilab’s technical R&D efforts.

“In the minds of many colleagues, the names Victor Yarba and Fermilab Technical Division are very closely associated,” said Fermilab Chief Technical Officer Sergey Belomsetnykh. “He made major contributions to making the division into a world-class R&D center for superconducting magnets and radio-frequency cavities as well as home of facilities supporting the Fermilab accelerator complex and many projects.”

Yarba credits all of the directors he worked for — Peoples, Witherell, Pier Oddone and Nigel Lockyer — for being highly supportive of the Technical Division’s work. Yarba also recognizes the role carried out by the laboratory’s first director, Robert Wilson, in establishing Fermilab on the international stage.

“Without a doubt, our first director, Robert Wilson, did a fantastic job to make Fermilab so successful,” Yarba said.

Yarba’s graduated from Moscow State University, after which he spent 11 years at JINR in Dubna, Russia and another 23-and-a-half years at IHEP in Protvino. In addition to CERN and Fermilab, he also spent one-and-a-half years working at the Superconducting Super Collider.

A proposal close to Yarba’s heart that, he hopes, may someday be considered is the establishment of an educational unit to provide graduate education in accelerator physics and technology — a program that would take the current Ph.D. program, originally set up by second director Leon Lederman, a step further by providing all required education and opportunities to earn a degree at a university designated as a Fermilab educational unit. Despite Witherell’s and URA’s support, the effort did not succeed at the time it was proposed. Yarba hopes that the mantle could be picked up in the future.

“I still strongly believe that such an action, if realized, would increase the level of education in accelerator physics and technology, in addition to the number of participants in this field in this century,” Yarba said. “We have excellent scientists now who can provide such a high level of education.”

Upon retiring, Yarba plans to continue research at Fermilab and to write a book about his life as a scientist in the U.S. and the USSR and the many outstanding people he’s met during his 60 years of research. He also plans to travel to Europe annually. An active beekeeper for 40 years (he stopped a few years ago due to bee illnesses in the United States), he will resume his favorite hobby now that the situation is improving.

“Victor’s colleagues recognize his contributions, his wisdom and very often come to seek his advice,” Belomestnykh said. “We hope that he will remain active after retirement and are looking forward to his continuing involvement in the division’s life.”

Stop by at a reception to congratulate Yarba on his retirement on Tuesday, Feb. 27, from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. in ICB.