In memoriam: Michael Hrycyk

Mike Hrycyk

Former Fermilab employee Mike Hrycyk died on Nov. 14, 2021. He worked at Fermilab from 1975 to 2013. Services will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021 at 10:30 a.m., at the St. Nicholas Ukrainian Church in Chicago, and the ceremony will be held at 2:30 p.m. at the Abraham Lincoln Memorial in Elwood, Illinois.

Read his obituary.

Mike joined Fermilab in 1976 where he took part in a number of key projects. He initially joined the detector development group in Research Services, led by Muzaffer Atac, working on gas-based detectors. He participated in construction of the CDF Central Tracking Chamber (“my lovely CTC”) in the 1980s and then moved to the new field of silicon-based detectors.

He played a central role in the design and construction of the first silicon detector for hadron colliders, the SVX, and all of its descendants —the SVX’, SVX II, Layer 0, Layer 00 and ISL—before working on the layer 0 detector for DZero. He was universally admired and respected by the technicians, engineers and scientists who worked with him.

Here are some recollections of his former colleagues:

I met Mike during the transition from IB4 to SiDet but understood—from Mike and others—that Mike Hrycyk was in charge of the team that built the very first silicon micro-strip vertex detector back in the late ‘80s, as well as the two-barrel (SVX’) replacement detector. Starting with a core team of technical personnel in Industrial Building 4, Mike pioneered the use of Coordinate Measuring Machines for the construction of ladders and barrels. The IB4 cleanroom later evolved into the SiDet facility in the Neutrino complex of the Fermilab Fixed Target area. During the formative years of SiDet, Mike played a leadership role with growing staff, serving as an interface between the management teams and the technicians. He was also instrumental in greatly broadening the collections of CMMs, optical inspection systems, and wire bonding machines. He certainly played a key role in construction of the CDF vertex detector that contributed to the discovery of the top quark—and his legacy also includes SiDet’s current wire bonding tech (Michelle).

Lenny Spiegel

I was very much saddened to hear of Mike Hryczk’s death. Mike was an outstanding coworker and colleague. I first met Mike when we were first designing the D0 Silicon Tracker. We were novices at the craft, and Mike was enormously generous and giving of his insight, expertise and knowledge. Mike later worked with me on the D0 layer 0 project, where he was the wellspring of many of the designs and ideas that made the project a success. He was a master of the demanding art of silicon detector design and fabrication. Mike exemplified the spirit and capability of Fermilab’s technical staff. He learned what he needed to learn to do his job and much more. He provided the kind of institutional memory and wisdom that is crucial to the success of any complex technical project. Mike worked closely with the physicists to translate their sometimes-unrealistic concepts to reliably working detector systems. He is on my short list of the many outstanding colleagues I have worked with at Fermilab over the years.

Ron Lipton

In 1976, John Urish, Muzaffer Atac and Mike Hrycyk toast the completion of their new detector facility.

In terms of my recollections, Mike was one of a kind, a real gentle giant. His skills, both technical and manual, were key to the design, development and construction of the original CDF SVX, the first silicon tracker for a hadron collider. As is well known, this device made a key contribution to the discovery of the top quark and definitively to the development of precision b physics at hadron colliders.

To me, Mike represents a time when the coupling of ideas and ingenuity with tangible results in instrumentation was much tighter. His personality was super-inclusive; everyone was on equal footing. He was generous, warm, and full of hospitality. I think everyone who worked with him will recall that he loved to discuss the details of the project—a lot! He will be missed.

Carl Haber

This is very sad news. Mike was a real friend and a genius who understood the challenges we faced and worked tirelessly to find remarkably simple and effective solutions to very difficult problems. He was a key contributor to the design and construction of CDF tracking systems and the silicon projects for both Tevatron experiments. Those detectors influenced the decisions of the LHC experiments to build silicon trackers. I relied on his input and intuition to help make the detailed case for how it would be possible to build an all-silicon tracker in CMS, for instance, at a time when that was considered extremely risky. It was the right choice and extended our physics reach significantly. There was never a dull moment with Mike! I was very fortunate to work with him for many years.

Joe Incandela

I am devastated, really very sad to hear that Mike passed away. As I recall him, Mike was someone who fully embraced life. I had a wonderful time working with him at Sidet on SVX’. It was really easy to work with him.
He was also absolutely dedicated to his work and excellent in doing it.

On a lighter note, there is something he often repeated that I still remember:
“Never assume! Why? Because you would make an ass of u and me!”

Please convey my sincere condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.

Eric Kajfasz

Mike Hrycyk

Thanks for sharing this very sad news. Like everyone who worked with Mike, I have very fond memories.

The development of larger and more sophisticated precision silicon trackers has been key in the success of the physics programs at both the Tevatron and the LHC. Mike played a central role. For the CDF SVX-II, his extensive expertise was absolutely crucial for the design and the construction.

During the very challenging prototyping, I fondly recall him, time and time again, pushing his glasses up onto his forehead and peering, squinting at a tiny circuit, tweezers ready in his steady hand. He could pull off the impossible. A master craftsman.

He was a joy to work with and a mentor to all.

Jeff Spalding

That is indeed very sad to hear that Mike passed away. Really a pity.

I remember him as a top-notch engineer, meticulous and dedicated. He seemed born to work on the delicate silicon detector design. As Eric said, he also fully embraced life, was very generous with his time for his colleagues, and had a good sense of humor. I remember one Christmas party where he played “Who let the dogs out” over the paging system at SiDet.

Marcel Demarteau

I have quite a lot of memories of the time spent with Mike—mostly discussing how to best proceed with the detector mechanics, or how to best go about with some repair work, or just grand strategies for detector mechanics—but also just of being in the same clean room for hours, each deep in their work, but aware of the presence of the other. He loved working with his hands on the detector, attempting very tricky operations with a steady hand and a lot of patience.

I have spent many hours with Mike and learned a lot from him. He has been always very kind to me and to all of us working with him, generous, welcoming, and full of energy and ideas.

I’ll miss him.

Nicola Bacchetta

Mike Hrycyk was so much part of my time at Fermilab and SiDet (CDF 1998-2002) that I cannot imagine either without him. His contributions to our project were inestimable: if you needed to do something that seemed impossible, he would be able to tell you how to do it, and if it was truly impossible, he would probably do it himself. He had endless experience and pretty much endless anecdotes too. I started missing Mike the moment I left Fermilab, and when working on technical problems, I still often think, “I am sure Mike would have a better solution … .”

Joel Goldstein

Things Mike taught me during our extraordinary journey of building the CDF Layer 00 silicon, not only technical things, but also about work and life, are wisdoms I carry with me and pass on to those I mentor. Most importantly, Mike taught me lessons about letting go of things that were difficult for this stubborn young physicist to accept. It saddens me to hear of his passing, but as he would have said, when trying to get me past something that that had gone irreversibly wrong, “What are you gonna do?”

Tim K. Nelson

From left to right: Chris Hill, Brenna Flaugher, Mike Hrycyk, Joel Goldstein and Mrs. Joanne Hrycyk.

From Mike’s own comment on a 2009 Summer of Science blog article, “Robert Wilson’s Weird Dream Lab: Fermilab, part 1,” “I worked with the greatest people in the world; they not only came from all over the country but from all over the world. The cultural and intellectual interactions I had with my colleagues from all over the U.S.A., Europe and Asia will never be forgotten.”