by Iva Raynova. Published: 28 February 2016

The new run coordinator of ALICE

Siegfried was born in Germany but raised in South Africa. While still in high school, he had the idea to study medicine: “I wanted to study science and to help others at the same time”. When he got to University though, he fell in love with physics: “We had very good and inspirational physics lecturers at university, especially on the theory side. Somehow my interest in physics became stronger and stronger and eventually overrode all other interests I had.”

Then, one morning, an announcement of open positions in the newly built cyclotron near Cape Town marked the beginning of his career in nuclear physics. He applied and shortly after he started working for iThemba LABS. In 2008 the institute became an official member of ALICE and Siegfried and his colleagues joined the muon spectrometer group. “In the beginning we were trained to be on-call shifters on the muon spectrometer and in particular on the muon tracking chambers. Then we did some training to do central shifts for running ALICE during Run 1. On the physics side we became involved in the heavy flavour research and we investigated the production of the W boson, looking at the single-muon decay. That became our initial focus area.”

In 2012 Siegfried was period run coordinator for the month of October. After this experience he became very interested in taking more regular shifts as shift leader. Last year he was proposed to become the next run coordinator, which for him is not just a personal achievement: “I am proud, but I am mainly happy for my institute and for my country. South Africa is a small but growing player. Not only in ALICE, but also in ATLAS and ISOLDE, the other experiments in which the country is involved. On the experimental side of South Africa’s involvement this is quite a big honour and privilege.”

To Siegfried the intriguing facet about the LHC physics is the fact that it has never been done before. “It’s frontier physics. For me that is the most fascinating thing. I am glad to be a part of a team, which walks where nobody has walked before. And there are new discoveries to be made, even at laboratories like iThemba LABS, where my colleagues are involved in low-energy physics. It is a big privilege to be here and representing my country is an even greater privilege.”

Playing tennis, doing bush safaris and game drives in South Africa and Namibia, hiking and reading books are Siegfried’s favourite activities outside his work. While living in Cape Town, he also has another, rather unusual hobby: “I learned how to bake bread. We are not blessed with many good bakeries there and homemade bread is very delicious. It is like a therapy, a meditation for me, because it’s a long process during which I have the time to rest my mind. It takes up to four hours. It’s all about mixing the dough manually. The final product depends on how well the dough was knead. I won’t keep doing it here, because there is a great variety of bread, but back home, there is a big need for proper bread.”

The ALICE Matters team would like to wish Siegfried a successful, exciting and problem-free year of run coordination. We would also like to thank Federico Ronchetti, his predecessor, for the amazing work he did for the past two years. As Siegfried says: “I know that I have a very good and strong team behind me. Federico handed me a very well-oiled, super-running machine. It’s obviously a challenge to keep it in such good condition. The bar is set very high, he did a tremendous job!”