Heidelberg Physicists: Leading Roles in the ATLAS Experiment of the LHC

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Monica Dunford next to the Foucault pendulum, which can be found in the Kirchhof

Monica Dunford next to the Foucault pendulum, which can be found in the Kirchhoff Institute for Physics. | Dr Rainer Stamen (Kirchhoff Institute for Physics)

Silvia Franchino and Monica Dunford responsible for detector operation and data analysis

Two researchers from the Kirchhoff Institute for Physics of Heidelberg University are assuming leadership roles in the ATLAS experiment of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest particle accelerator at the CERN research centre in Geneva (Switzerland). In March 2022, Dr Silvia Franchino took up her position as Run Coordinator and is responsible for the operation of the detector and data acquisition. Starting in October of this year, Monica Dunford will assume the position of Physics Coordinator, responsible for the analysis of the data recorded by ATLAS and the physics output. The two Heidelberg physicists, each selected to serve for two years in their respective roles, will be heading up two of the most important areas of ATLAS. As one of the four large LHC experiments, for more than ten years ATLAS has been providing new findings on the basic building blocks of matter. More than 3,000 researchers collaborate here.

In her role as Physics Coordinator, Prof. Dunford will be responsible for the research programme of the ATLAS experiment. With the aid of high-energy proton-proton collisions, CERN researchers explore the world of the tiniest particles, in search of new phenomena beyond the established standard model of elementary particle physics. Monica Dunford received her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania (USA) in 2006, thereafter joining the University of Chicago as an Enrico Fermi Fellow. The physicist has been doing research for the ATLAS experiment since 2010, as a CERN Fellow up to 2012 and then as a junior research group leader at the Kirchhoff Institute for Physics of Heidelberg University, where she habilitated in 2015. In 2017, she was guest professor at Dresden University of Technology as part of the Eleonore Trefftz Programme. She was appointed adjunct professor at Ruperto Carola at the end of 2018.

As Run Coordinator for the operation of the ATLAS detector, Dr Franchino is leading a team of several hundred technicians, engineers, and physicists. Hardware and software for the experiment have been extensively upgraded since 2019 to prepare the detector for the next period of data taking (Run 3). Since 2015, the researcher has been involved in the expansion of the so-called trigger system, which is designed to detect potentially interesting particle collisions and activate recording of the resulting data. In her new role, Silvia Franchino is responsible for the recommissioning and deployment of the overall detector. She has been working with the ATLAS experiment since 2006, first as a PhD candidate at Texas Tech University (USA) and the University of Pavia (Italy), and subsequently as a postdoc in Pavia and as a Fellow at CERN. Dr Franchino has been pursuing research at the Kirchhoff Institute for Physics of Heidelberg University since 2015.

Silvia Franchino and Monica Dunford belong to the ATLAS working group at the Kirchhoff Institute for Physics under the leadership of Hans-Christian Schultz-Coulon. The Institute has been a member of the ATLAS collaboration since 1992 and its key contributions have been instrumental to the success of the experiment for many years.


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