Interview: Davide Costanzo, ATLAS Computing Co-ordinator

As well as being our Professor of Experimental Particle Physics and leading our MSc(Res) Particle Physics course, Davide Costanzo has just taken on a new role as ATLAS Computing Co-ordinator at the CERN research centre. We asked him a few questions to find out how he's settling in.

DavideTell us all about your new role.

Last October, I started as the Deputy Computing Coordinator for the ATLAS project, and I will take up the position of Computing Coordinator in October 2018. ATLAS is a fantastic collaboration of researchers who study proton interactions at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, pushing the frontier of human knowledge of the “infinite small”. Our  flagship discovery was the Higgs boson in 2012, but we have pushed the understanding of particle physics in a lot of other areas.

ATLAS is run democratically and each institute gets a vote. We have 187 institutes on every continent on Earth (except Antartica, that is!), and Sheffield is one of them. Since 2005 the group institute in Sheffield (led by Professor Dan Tovey) has grown to 30 students, postdocs and academics.

The ATLAS software and computing project has been my second nature for the past 16 years. It’s important to have good software and computing infrastructure to analyse the data and eventually find Supersymmetry. Recently my collaboration decided to appoint me as the coordinator of this project, which is a great honour.

What do you enjoy researching?

Supersymmetry is really my thing - it predicts that for every particle a super partner exists. Like looking at the universe in a distorting mirror. The nice feature of Supersymmetry is that it would explain the existence of Dark Matter in the Universe that our Astronomy colleagues observe indirectly. The trouble with Supersymmetry? There is no experimental evidence that it is realised in Nature. And this is no small problem for an experimentalist like me!

ATLASWhat does the future hold for you?

This is an interesting question. The Large Hadron Collider is now in its maturity, and students are really the people who do all the work. I feel I would like a new challenge. I am busy for the next 2 years in this role, but then I face an interesting decision. I could explore more the data science aspects of particle physics or find another area where I can apply this knowledge. I am fascinated by cosmology, and I feel there are experiments that explore the nature of the Universe and have similar questions to the LHC. But from a different angle.

If time travel was possible, what words of advice would you give to your student-self?

I love physics. I think it provides an intellectual framework that opens the door to a lot of professions. In the end I stayed in academia, and I enjoy my life. My parents wanted me to study engineering, and I hear the same story from many of our students.

Over the years I have met many people in the field of physics, and never found anyone who regretted it, or are unhappy with their careers. I think it was a great choice! I would say “study physics and open the door to the world”. Or for the lucky ones, like me, the door to the Universe!

Academic profile:

Professor Davide Costanzo