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Development & Alumni Relations Office
Sheffield Hallam University
City Campus
Howard Street
S1 1WB

Telephone: 0114 225 4454


Alumni profiles

Paul Collier
PhD Applied Physics, class of 1986

Paul came to Sheffield Hallam University in 1982 to do a PhD in Applied Physics. After graduating, he became a lecturer at the University until 1986, at first in the Applied Physics department and then in Electrical Engineering. He now works at the scientific research centre, CERN. Based near Geneva, CERN researches what the Universe is made of and how it works, using particle accelerators and detectors to study what happens when particles collide.

Paul Collier'I had heard of CERN through a colleague at Sheffield Hallam who had worked there during a sabbatical. He encouraged me to apply to the fellows programme which is a post-graduate training programme allowing young scientists and engineers to work for up to 3 years at CERN. I was accepted and arrived in Geneva in January 1987. I worked on the construction and installation of the radio frequency accelerating system for the accelerator LEP, which went into operation in July 1989. At the end of my fellowship I was recruited as an engineer working in the operations group. I have worked at CERN ever since.

My present job is head of the Beams department within the organisation. The department has around 600 people of which about 400 are staff members and the rest are fellows, students and industrial support staff. The department operates all the CERN complex of accelerators as well as being home to the main accelerator physics study teams and various technical groups providing accelerator components. Managing such a large and diverse unit is a challenge, but very satisfying professionally.

At present the main focus is on the commissioning of our latest accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The LHC has been over 20 years in the making with studies in the 80s leading to the go-ahead for construction in 1995. The final stages of installation, testing and beam commissioning have been a tremendously exciting time for everyone involved.

As well as the LHC there are several other major facilities at CERN and my day-to-day work involves all of these. CERN needs a huge range of disciplines and technologies to build and maintain its facilities. It is a very multi-cultural environment with people from all over the world coming to work here and use the facilities. Over half of the worlds Particle Physicists work at CERN and represent over 90 different nationalities. All this makes for a very stimulating intellectual environment.

Commissioning and operating the LHC at nominal performance will be a tremendous challenge in the coming years. The next few years will be very exciting as the results come out of the LHC and shape our understanding of the universe we live in. In addition studies are already underway in my department concerning the next generation machines for the high-energy frontier of particle physics.

My PhD at Sheffield Hallam was in materials science, but required me to learn a number of other disciplines including electrical engineering, real-time control and mechanics. Having such a broad range of experiences during my studies was extremely useful when I arrived at CERN'.

CERN continues to look for engineers and scientists to come and work with them. There are a variety of possibilities including student placement programmes, doctoral student programmes, fellowships for graduates and staff posts. For more information about CERN, take a look at their website.

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