Almost fifty Ukrainian scientists are currently collaborating with the European Center for Nuclear Research. But only a few of them get access to his heart – the hadron collider, the particle accelerator, – writes Irina Solomko in issue 14 of the Korrespondent magazine dated April 12, 2013.
Ilya Shapoval, a 29-year-old theoretical physicist, retaining a Ukrainian passport, has been a citizen of an amazing territorial entity that can be called a “scientific republic” for the fourth year. He is an employee of the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN), located on French and Swiss lands, which he is very proud of. Indeed, among the hundreds of European scientists “inhabiting” the center, Ukrainians are the rarest species. There are only a few of them here, and all of them can claim the title of the world scientific elite.
CERN is a territory with its own rules and procedures. Similarities with the sovereign state of CERN are added by its own security service, fire and sanitary units, as well as the fact that its borders are closed to any casual visitors. A pass here is almost like a visa to another country: it is difficult to get it, and without it, as well as without an accompanying employee of the center, you can neither get inside nor stay there.
All this is done for the convenience and safety of specialists who study elementary particles with the help of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). It is a 27-kilometer ring located at a depth of 100 m, where protons accelerate. There are four main detectors on the ring – CMS, Atlas, Alice and LHCb. They allow scientists to study various particles.
CERN has 47 Ukrainians involved in three experiments, half of them work remotely
The last of the listed detectors is the object for which Shapoval is working here. An employee of the Kharkov Institute of Physics and Technology, at CERN he writes programs for analyzing data obtained as a result of the work of LHCb. Therefore, when the Kharkiv resident, together with the Correspondent, went underground to the detector, his face lit up with a smile. He enthusiastically shows one of the parts of the installation – a hadron colorimeter made by Ukrainians.
The contribution of compatriots to the international project is not limited to this object: today a group of Kyiv physicists is responsible for the radiation monitoring system. In total, as noted by Boris Grinev, First Deputy Chairman of the State Agency for Science of Ukraine, Innovation and Informatization, CERN has 47 Ukrainians involved in three experiments, half of them work remotely. Only a few specialists sometimes come here. And the case of Shapoval, who constantly works here, is completely unique.
Everything could have been different if Ukraine had been an associate member of CERN. Official Kyiv filed an application in December 2011, and so far the parties are busy with negotiations. According to Grinev, now the process is already at its final stage, and the Ukrainians hope that the agreement will be signed this year.
Through thorns to CERN
The history of Shapoval is unique for Ukraine. He came to CERN on a business trip almost immediately after graduating from Kharkiv National University. Karazin and showed himself so well that he was offered a permanent position in the “scientific republic”. So programming, Shapoval’s hobby, which at home was a side hobby with his main specialization – theoretical physics, became his specialty.
Today, the young scientist leads one of the key LHCb projects, and is involved in the creation of data processing programs for upcoming experiments. “He [Shapoval] brought a lot to CERN, which is why they are holding on to him,” explains Anatoly Dovbnya, director of the Institute for High Energy Physics and Nuclear Physics at the National Science Center Kharkov Institute of Physics and Technology.
Programming, Shapoval’s hobby, which at home was a side hobby with his main specialization – theoretical physics, became his specialty.
Despite this status, Shapoval himself feels himself in a “scientific country” under constant pressure. He says that a few months ago, the continuation of the work of the already few Ukrainians at CERN turned out to be a big question because of the debt of about 200 thousand Swiss francs that Ukraine had accumulated before the center.
The fact is that, according to the rules of the “scientific state”, the countries participating in the experiments must pay 10 thousand francs a year for their specialists. The fee gives the right to publish joint scientific papers. According to the experiment in which Shapoval works, the debt has been accumulating for ten years. Moreover, Ukraine for all this time has not concluded any cooperation agreement. According to the Kharkiv resident, CERN understands that the economic situation in Ukraine is difficult, but their patience is running out.
“We were given to understand that they could simply be excluded from the experiment. Especially indicative was the situation with the holding of Euro 2012. The management directly told me: they say, the authorities find billions for the tournament, but they cannot find a penny to participate in the most prestigious project in high energy physics, ”complains Shapoval.
In order to somehow resolve the issue and enable Ukrainian scientists to cooperate in the LHCb program, the Institute for High Energy and Nuclear Physics itself signed an agreement with CERN, pledging to pay 20,000 francs a year for domestic experimenters from its own funds.
A few months ago, the continuation of the work of the already few Ukrainians at CERN turned out to be a big question due to the debt of about 200 thousand Swiss francs that Ukraine had accumulated to the center
The reverence that specialists from the banks of the Dnieper demonstrate towards the “state of scientists” is not accidental: for domestic physicists, cooperation with CERN is the only opportunity to work, given the fact that they are simply not able to conduct similar experiments in Ukraine.
Thanks to an individual agreement, the Institute for High Energy Physics has access to the data that CERN receives in the course of experiments at LHCb. By analyzing the information, Ukrainians contribute to an attempt to prove the existence of the most important mystery of modern physics – the Higgs boson, the missing element of the dominant theory that describes all fundamental particles and their interaction. To prove the existence of the boson, the LHC was created.
Today, 47 Ukrainians are involved in various CERN experiments. They work remotely, only a few manage to come to the center. As Dovbnya notes, only one person from their institute visited Geneva last year. His two-month business trip cost 50,000 hryvnias received from the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (NASU). Grinev says that last year NASU allocated only UAH 900,000 for a program that allows scientists to go on business trips on 12 projects.
Being on a special viewing platform a few meters from the LHCb, Shapoval, not without pride, shows the Correspondent a yellow frame – the region of the hadron calorimeter. Ukrainians took part in its design and construction.
Last year, NASU allocated only UAH 900,000 for a program that allows scientists to go on business trips on 12 projects.
The detector itself has a pyramidal shape. It is in it that the collision of protons takes place, which are accelerated almost to the speed of light directly in the collider. “As a result, many other elementary particles are born. We carefully study the most interesting ones,” explains Shapoval.
All detectors are different and study different properties of particles. Ukrainians take part in experiments on three detectors – CMS, Alice and LHCb. Shapoval says the LHCb, for example, is exploring the reason why the world is predominantly composed of matter, not antimatter.
“At the moment of the big bang, matter and antimatter were formed in equal amounts, but after a second, antimatter almost completely disappeared. We [scientists participating in LHCb] are also studying the reasons for this asymmetry, among other tasks,”says the researcher.
Cutting a window to Europe
Gloria Corti, an Italian physicist, has been at CERN for more than a year. She is a colleague of Shapoval. Communicating with the Correspondent, the Italian regrets that there are not so many Ukrainians at CERN. “I know that the contribution of your scientists to the construction of our detector is very large. In general, it is very pleasant to work with them,”she notes.
Ukrainians are known and appreciated in Geneva, which is also evidenced by the fact that CERN is actively negotiating to grant Ukraine the status of an associate member. The country cannot become a full-fledged member due to the large size of membership fees (for example, Germany pays 213.3 million francs, France – 169 million, and Great Britain – 164 million). The annual budget of CERN, which is formed by the participating countries, is $ 1 billion.
Ukraine applied for associate membership at the end of 2011, as soon as CERN announced the creation of such a form of cooperation. Previously, only a country that was preparing to become a full member received this status.
The country cannot become a full-fledged member due to the large size of membership fees (for example, Germany pays 213.3 million francs, France – 169 million, and Great Britain – 164 million). The annual budget of CERN, which is formed by the participating countries, is $ 1 billion.
Since the application was submitted, several rounds of negotiations have already passed. Dovbnya notes that everyone expected the signing of the agreement before the end of 2012, but this has not yet happened.
Grinev, who is in charge of the negotiations, assured the correspondent that there are no stumbling blocks along this path. The official is optimistic and compares the signing of the agreement with the Association Agreement with the EU. “This is the same access to Europe, but for physicists,” he adds.
The new status, in fact, will not only open the doors to this “physical” world Mecca for a greater number of young Ukrainian scientists, but will also allow the country to take part and win tenders for the construction of various facilities.
So far, the way of Ukrainians there is closed. Dovbnya says that our researchers have tried to participate in such projects because their work is valued and services are cheaper. But it didn’t work out to win. “There is such a rule: regardless of the price or conditions, the primary right to win in a tender from a member country,” the scientist explains.
According to Grinev, CERN is interested in Ukrainian enterprises participating in the technical preparation of experiments, as they offer good quality engineering work at affordable prices. But for this you need to get a certain status in the center and pay for it.
CERN is interested in the participation of Ukrainian enterprises in the technical preparation of experiments, as they offer good quality engineering work at affordable prices
It is already known that the cost of membership for Ukraine will amount to 1 million Swiss francs per year, but, based on the practice of CERN, these funds are guaranteed to be returned in the form of completed orders. Grinev gives an example of Ukraine’s cooperation with the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia. They say that in 2011 and part of 2012, Ukraine paid $2.5 million for participation in the survey, and received orders from Dubna for $8 million.
In addition to contributions under the agreement with CERN, Ukraine must partially provide work and orders for its scientists in the field of high energy and particle physics. But even here Grinev sees no difficulties. So, a decision has already been made to create a new key laboratory, where they are going to conduct the necessary research. Funding will go through the Fund for Basic Research. To select projects, the laboratory will create a special supervisory board of leading foreign experts.
Shapoval and his colleagues are looking forward to signing the contract. Especially now, when CERN plans to move on to a new stage of experiments. A couple of weeks ago, the work of the collider was suspended. This is necessary to check all connections and the technical condition of the accelerator equipment, detectors,in order to then start the installation at full design capacity.
So far, the experiments were carried out at a lower power. This was enough to find a particle very similar to the Higgs boson. Now we need to define its main properties.
ыThat is why Shapoval hopes to continue his activities at CERN. If he fails, he is ready to return to his homeland. “One of my main goals is to promote Ukraine in the world, regardless of the level of funding and attention from the authorities,” the scientist sums up.
This material was published in issue 14 of the Korrespondent magazine dated April 12, 2013.