In memoriam: Greg Snow

Greg Snow

Longtime Fermilab scientist-user Greg Snow died on May 4 at age 65.

Snow was an undergraduate at Princeton University and earned his Ph.D. at Rockefeller University, where he wrote his doctoral dissertation on Fermilab experiment E612. After a postdoctoral appointment at Rockefeller, during which he worked on the UA6 experiment at CERN, and a faculty position at the University of Michigan, he founded the modern high-energy physics group at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) in 1993.

He was a member of the DZero collaboration beginning in 1988 and held multiple leadership positions in that organization. On DZero, he worked on a variety of QCD studies, including the measurement of direct photon cross sections. He also was a leader of the luminosity measurements that underpinned most of the DZero papers.

Greg joined CMS experiment in 1994. He was perhaps best known for establishing the CMS Thesis Award in 2000. He also worked on early plans for CMS luminosity measurements. He led the U.S. CMS collaboration as its chair of the Collaboration Board from 2016-18 and as the deputy chair from 2014-2016. He served as the secretary of the CMS Collaboration Board Thesis Award Committee until 2013 and its chair from 2013-2018.

Greg was committed to education and outreach, most prominently as the leader of Education, Outreach and Public Relations for the Pierre Auger Project. He was truly passionate about the Auger Science Fair. His interactions with the local teachers showed mutual respect and friendship. Greg ensured that the necessary infrastructure was in place to host student teams from about 40 schools, that the Auger scientists were enthusiastic in functioning as judges of student projects and that the staff acted as translators whenever needed. As good prizes for the winning student teams are difficult to obtain in Argentina, he purchased those in the United States and brought those with him to the science fair, ensuring that the prizes were useful and fun to receive for the students.

Greg’s outreach to the people of the town of Malargue and surrounding communities, where Auger Observatory is located, instilled a feeling of ownership for the observatory by the residents that has been a significant factor in its success.

While outreach was the focus of Greg’s work on Auger, he also made essential contributions to the atmospheric monitoring instruments that has been crucial to the determination of the cosmic-ray energies.

He gave many public presentations on particle physics and astrophysics and also helped establish and operate the Cosmic Ray Observatory Project, or C.R.O.P., an effort to instrument high schools throughout the state of Nebraska with cosmic-ray detectors. He started C.R.O.P in 1999, and in the early 2000s he led several workshops aimed at high school teachers at the Snowmass HEP conference. Those who completed the workshops left with an increased enthusiasm and new ideas how to translate their knowledge to high school students.

Greg was a long-time member of UNL’s Speakers Bureau and volunteered his time to present topics of interest to civic groups, clubs, retirement communities, and schools. His presentations on the discovery of the Higgs boson, ultrahigh energy cosmic rays, and the discovery of gravity waves were particularly popular.

He also loved events in which the general public can experience the thrill of science. In 2012, he celebrated the centennial of Victor Hess’s balloon missions by launching high-altitude balloons during a Nebraska football game halftime show in front of 85,000 people. These balloons went up 95,000 feet and experiments on board, created by high school students and undergraduate physics students, gathered images and data.

Greg was a fellow of the American Physical Society, served on the Fermilab Board of Overseers and its successor organization, the Board of Directors. He served multiple terms on the Fermilab Users Executive Committee (and was a member at time of his death) and was chair in 1998-99. He was also associate dean for research in the College of Arts and Sciences at UNL from 2008-13.

He received a Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation. The program was the predecessor of the current NSF Early CAREER Award. His research and outreach activities were supported by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, NASA and sources internal to the University of Nebraska.

Greg made a significant contribution to the global field of particle physics. He had many friends throughout the field who appreciated his enthusiasm, kindness and good company, and he will be missed by all.

A memorial service will be held on Thursday, May 9, at 11 a.m. at Roper and Sons Funeral Home, 4300 ‘O’ St., Lincoln, Nebraska. There will be no visitation. Memorial contributions may be directed to C.R.O.P. or the Pierre Auger Observatory.

Read Snow’s obituary.