Tuesday, June 25, 2013


At the laboratory where I work, lots of scientists from outside universities stay for extended periods of time to carry out their research. In planning, staging, and running such experiments, dozens of folks are intimately involved, all working on a demanding schedule under significant pressure. There are folks who i). design, build, and test the detectors, ii). install the equipment in the experimental area, iii). connect the detectors to the readout electronics and make sure that everything is working, iv). write the tens of thousands of lines of computer code to carry out the experiment and analyze the data, and v). sit shifts on the experiment for the weeks and months that the experiment collects data.

Recently we had a rather senior scientist come to our lab to work on an experiment that he was in charge of. He had not done any research at our lab before and wasn't familiar with our culture or our way of doing things. Each week he provided updates to our group regarding what had happened the previous week and what the plans were for the upcoming week. He detailed all the unexpected problems that cropped up and how they were solved, as well as the issues that were still unresolved. At the end of the experiment, he gave a summary presentation of how things went. He detailed some of the major issues that they were faced with and how they were solved. He then gave our group a profound compliment that was quite powerful. He said that he never had to go and search out who might be responsible for a given system or a given area. When there was work to be done, the right folks just seemed to show up and take care of it. It didn't matter what hour of the night or day, people knew their jobs and took care of everything that needed to be done without ever having to be asked.

Sometimes folks say thanks and it quickly tickles our ears and is gone. Other times that have a way of showing their appreciation that stays with you.