The governing board of CERN, Europe's premier particle physics lab, today tapped Italian physicist and board chair Luciano Maiani as CERN's next director-general. Maiani succeeds Christopher Llewellyn Smith, who will complete his 5-year term at the end of next year.
Many European physicists were clearly pleased by the choice. Maiani, a theoretical physicist who currently heads a nuclear physics lab near Rome, "is well trusted by the community of physicists," says Volker Soergel of the Max Planck Institute for Physics in Munich, Germany, a former director at DESY, Germany's particle physics laboratory in Hamburg. "It is a good tradition of CERN to select a ... renowned scientist, and Maiani fits perfectly this tradition," says Soergel.
In an interview with ScienceNOW, Maiani said his top priority will be to oversee construction of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world's largest particle collider that's being built at CERN, near Geneva. The LHC "is a big challenge, both from a scientific and technological point of view. I will have to make sure that CERN fulfills this most important task of the coming years," he says.
The next priority, says Maini, is to squeeze money for new research from increasingly tighter budgets. A final concern is the future--specifically the direction CERN should take after the LHC is completed sometime around 2005, according to Maiani. "Will there be next machine?" he asks. "We must start thinking [about that]." If so, it will require boosting collaboration between CERN and DESY, Europe's top two high-energy labs. Despite their current independence, he says, "a joint program or common framework will have to be found."