A leading Israeli astrophysics theorist has made a remarkable achievement – being elected as the 24th president of the council of CERN, Organisation européenne pour la recherche nucléaire (the European Organization for Nuclear Research is the translation from the French.) Rabinovici is a professor at the Racah Institute of Physics of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who has served on the council for many years.
The Israeli scientist, who specializes in theoretical high-energy physics –
especially quantum field theory and string theory – replaces Ursula Bassler as head of the council, whose headquarters is in Geneva, Switzerland. The council comprises the 23 member states, oversees significant decisions including programs and budgets and governs the organization.
Rabinovici said that “it is a great honor to be elected president of the board of CERN an organization with the desire to create knowledge for the benefit of all humanity and where the international cooperation of all the world’s leading researchers meet. I am proud and excited to lead the most advanced research in the world with the world’s leading researchers,” he commented.
“CERN is a special place where science and collaboration meet to answer some of the most fundamental questions about the world we live in.. Throughout my 16 years as a member of the CERN Council, I have time after time been captivated by the commitment, collaboration and knowledge of people who work together towards the same mission. I am honored that the council chose me as their next president and thankful that I get the opportunity to serve CERN’s scientific community, member States and associate member states,” he continued.
Hebrew University president Prof. Asher Cohen congratulated Rabinovici: “We are happy and proud of your election as president CERN.”
The huge facility in Switzerland operates the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider, which creates high-energy collisions of subatomic particles.
Israel has been a member of CERN for the past eight years, when it became the first non-European full member; no other non-European country has been named a full member since then. Israel joined the organization as an observer in 1991, and scores of Israeli scientists have participated in CERN research projects including the discovery of the Higgs boson, known popularly as the “God particle,” in 2012, in which hundreds of international scientists participated.
Rabinovici was elected to a one-year term but it can be renewed twice, so it is likely he will serve for three years. He will take office on January 1, 2022, when his predecessor completes her three years in office.
“Prof. Rabinovici is a brilliant theorist in the most advanced fields of research,” Bassler said in a statement. Bassler was born in Germany in 1965 and moved to France as an au-pair. She completed her doctorate in particle physics at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in 1993. “During my presidency, I very often had the occasion to exchange with Prof. Rabinovici, whose advice and contributions have always been very helpful to steer the ongoing discussions. I am confident that the council is welcoming an excellent President, whose concern for science is of the utmost importance,” the outgoing president said.
Rabinovici is currently professor at the Racah Institute of Physics of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Louis Michel visiting chair at the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques (IHES). He received his PhD in high-energy physics at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot in 1974. In the following years, he worked as a research associate at Fermilab and at Lawrence Berkeley Radiation Laboratory, before returning to Israel and the Hebrew University as a senior lecturer in 1977.
Rabinovici’s main field of research is theoretical high-energy physics and, in particular, quantum field theory and string theory. He has made major contributions to the understanding of the phase structure of gauge theories, which are the building blocks of the Standard Model, and the uncovering of the phases of gravity. Throughout his career, he has held positions within several councils and committees, such as member of the HEP-EPS Board (from 1996 to 2011), chairman of the Israeli Committee for SESAME (since 1997) and chairman of the Israeli High-Energy Committee (from 2004 to 2020). In 2004, he was appointed as one of Israel’s delegates to the CERN Council, where he served as vice president from 2016 to 2018.
The convention that established CERN was ratified on September 29, 1954 by 12 Western European countries – Belgium, Denmark, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Yugoslaviain Western Europe.
The organization is located in a northwest suburb of Geneva on the Franco–Swiss border. The acronym CERN is also used to refer to the laboratory, which in 2019 had 2,660 scientific, technical, and administrative staff members, and hosted about 12,400 users from institutions in more than 70 countries. In 2016 alone, CERN generated 49 petabytes of data that was studied by physicists around the world.
CERN operates a network of six accelerators and a decelerator. Each machine in the chain increases the energy of particle beams before delivering them to experiments or to the next more powerful accelerator.
The main site at Meyrin hosts a large computing facility, which is primarily used to store and analyze data from experiments, as well as simulate events. Researchers need remote access to these facilities, so the lab has historically been a major wide area network hub. CERN is also the birthplace of the World Wide Web (Internet); the NeXT Computer used by British scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee at CERN became the first Web server.
The laboratory was originally devoted to the study of atomic nuclei, but was soon applied to higher-energy physics, concerned mainly with the study of interactions between subatomic particles. Therefore, the laboratory operated by CERN is commonly referred to as the European laboratory for particle physics, which better describes the research being performed there.
More recently, CERN has become a facility for the development of grid computing, hosting projects including the Enabling Grids for E-sciencE (EGEE) and LHC Computing Grid. It also hosts the CERN Internet Exchange Point (CIXP), one of the two main internet exchange points in Switzerland.