An editorial in the Sept. 3 Post suggests that constructing the Superconducting Supercollider, the 53-mile particle accelerator coveted as an educational resource by 25 states, would take money away from university research. The reverse, in fact, is true: the primary users of this high-energy physics machine will be the university research community.
The accelerator is in large part an extension of the university research laboratory. In fact, 30 to 40 years ago physicists typically operated their own high-energy accelerators on their individual campuses, and they only agreed to share common accelerator facilities when the costs of "private" accelerators became prohibitive. The quality typical of high-energy physics experiments today reflects the intense competition and peer pressure involved in gaining access to these very limited, shared facilities.
University researchers, faculty and students design their experiments and their detector equipment in their campus laboratories and return there to analyze their experimental data and publish the results. High-energy physics experiments push industrial technology to new limits in such areas as electronics, materials science and data processing, with benefits to our entire society. The excitement of the field challenges the imagination of the best graduate students, many of whom choose to do PhD theses in high-energy physics even though they might choose careers in other equally rewarding scientific fields.
Our own university research group of six high-energy physics professors has graduated some 30 PhDs in the past two decades. These young scientists have built on their training and experience with accelerator experiments to go on to careers in applied science, communications and computer technology, medical physics and university teaching, as well as high-energy physics research.
V. PAUL KENNEY
Professor of Physics
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, Ind.