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February 12, 2001


DALLAS (SMU) --A Southern Methodist University physics professor has been named director of a portion of an international physics project that involves building the world's largest scientific instrument.

Ryszard Stroynowski has been named to the leadership of the ATLAS program, one of several components of a large particle accelerator known as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) being built beneath the ground in Geneva, Switzerland.

The LHC includes a large underground tunnel with two rings that is 26 kilometers around. Protons will be accelerated around the rings in opposite directions. When they collide at an estimated rate of a billion collisions per second, new particles are expected to be released.

The ATLAS is one of two detectors that are being built as part of the collider project. These detectors will determine the energies, directions and identities of particles produced by the head-on collisions of the two beams of protons. The ATLAS, which is 60 feet tall and 90 feet wide, is the largest detector ever built.

"Among the debris from the collisions there should be some interesting material that no one has seen before," Stroynowski said.

From this material, physicists hope to come up with a better picture of how the universe works.

"Our present understanding of physics is not complete," Stroynowski said. "There must be something out there that we haven't seen yet."

The ATLAS project involves 1,500 physicists from 145 institutions in more than 20 countries. "That Ryszard was selected to head this program from among such a distinguished list of physicists shows an enormous respect from his peers," said Gary McCartor, chair of the Physics Department at SMU.

The United States began contributing to the LHC project after the Superconducting Super Collider project in Texas was cancelled in 1993. The LHC project is under the auspices of CERN, the world's leading particle physics research laboratory. Stroynowski began his career as a staff physicist with CERN in 1970 and has been a member of the SMU faculty since 1991.

Stroynowski said he accepted the ATLAS management position because it is important for the project to stay on schedule.

"I want to be able to participate in those great discoveries before I retire," Stroynowski said.

Stroynowski said the ATLAS detector is expected to be completed in 2005.

"Just getting the pieces down the shaft and assembled will take two years," he said, noting that the accelerator is between 60 and 250 meters underground.

Stroynowski and several other faculty members from SMU have been working on a portion of the ATLAS detector for several years. They have made several important contributions that will help the detector's electronic components survive extremely high levels of radiation.

Although the ATLAS project management office is located at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, Stroynowski said he plans to do his work from SMU. He has been appointed to the position for one year, but will probably remain in it for longer.

In addition to expanding our understanding of physics, Stroynowski noted that it is likely that there will be other important byproducts of the collider project.

After all, he noted, the World-Wide Web was developed at CERN to help scientists communicate with one another.