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SLUO LHC Workshop Spotlights ATLAS

(Photo - SLUO/LHC workshop in session)
Close to 90 stakeholders from U.S. and international labs and universities gathered at SLAC to discuss potential future contributions to the LHC. (Photo by Nicholas Bock.)

With the startup of the Large Hadron Collider on track for this autumn, the SLAC particle physics community is exploring next steps to best engage the lab's know-how and user resources in support of LHC science. Last Thursday and Friday, the SLAC Users Organization hosted a workshop to evaluate user needs and assess the specialized resources that SLAC can bring to LHC physics and accelerator programs.

"SLAC has now a long history of excellence in user support infrastructure for U.S. universities as well as in parternship with international institutions like CERN," said SLUO Chairperson Gérard Bonneaud, who organized the event. "We expect this workshop has triggered a renewed vision and momentum of the SLAC-LHC community by providing, through its presentations and discussions, a strong expression of the community's ambition. In return, SLAC should do now what is necessary, in collaboration with its natural partners of the Bay Area, the LHC Collaboration, U.S. LHC and the local ATLAS team and other institutions, to become the major LHC lab on the West Coast."

Close to 90 stakeholders from U.S. and international labs and universities gathered in SLAC's Research Office Building. Sessions focused on potential contributions to detector and accelerator systems development, theoretical work, simulation and data analysis, and computing resources to support the ATLAS experiment.

In recent years, SLAC teams have helped to commission the ATLAS triggering system and pixel detector, and contributed to the LHC accelerator systems as well as the theory and simulations guiding the LHC hunt for new physics. Workshop participants discussed how SLAC's strengths in accelerator R&D and expertise in particle physics might be leveraged in future LHC upgrades and experiments, and possibly an expanded SLAC effort in ATLAS operation and science.

"We have had a strong accelerator-based particle physics program, recently centered on the BaBar," said SLAC Director of Particle Physics and Astrophysics David MacFarlane. "Going forward, we see that evolving to the energy frontier, and, in particular, being focused on the LHC and ATLAS" with longer-term hopes for a future linear collider.

The final workshop session addressed LHC computing, and the potential to build an ATLAS Analysis Facility at SLAC. As an ATLAS Tier 2 computing center, SLAC has an important but modest role in simulation and analysis for ATLAS. With the deluge of data expected after startup of the giant collider, there will be a dramatic increase in the need for data analysis capability. To host an analysis facility addressing this need, SLAC would build on capabilities developed for the BaBar experiment's large datasets to support the even more data-intensive work of LHC collaborators in the region.

"SLAC is well prepared for pushing the envelope for data-intensive computing," said head of SLAC scientific computing Richard Mount. "We have a big ongoing operation, so it makes it very simple and easy to scale up our responsibility for ATLAS. The concept of a western analysis facility [for ATLAS] goes beyond, but certainly includes, hosting university Tier 3 facilities at SLAC. The concept is focused on data-intensive analysis on a major high-energy physics computing center scale."

Development of these ideas will be guided by the needs of the U.S. and broader particle physics community, MacFarlane emphasized, and ongoing discussion with the Department of Energy Office of High Energy Physics. "We have the opportunity to define together a new paradigm for SLAC's role as a national lab in support of the LHC."

—Shawne Workman
SLAC Today, July 20, 2009