30 years ago, on July 1, 1991, Poland joined the member states of the European Organization for Nuclear Research CERN, becoming a co-owner of the world's largest particle physics laboratory. About 550 Poles are currently associated with CERN, some of them participate in the most important research.
Located near Geneva, CERN deals with basic research in the field of physics, and scientists working there are trying to understand what the world is made of and what laws govern it. The origins of CERN date back to the late 1940s, when a small group of academics and politicians on both sides of the Atlantic saw basic science as an opportunity for the peaceful rebuilding of Europe after the conflagration of World War II. Founded in 1954, CERN is a leading example of international collaboration bringing together scientists from nearly 100 nationalities.
The CERN organization is mainly associated with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and matter research. The discovery of the Higgs boson, made in 2012 thanks to the LHC, is considered to be one of the most significant achievements in the history of science, awarded with the Nobel Prize in physics in 2013. However, in 2019, CERN already announced plans to build the Future Circular Collider (FCC), an accelerator four times larger and many times more powerful than the Large Hadron Collider. The new collider is to be built in the 1950s at the earliest and will enable the discovery of as yet unknown types of elementary particles. Its cost is estimated at EUR 9-21 billion (depending on configuration). Perhaps the data from the FCC will help to create a "theory of everything" that includes all the forces of nature, general relativity and quantum mechanics.
As early as the 1960s, Polish teams were working on compiling data from CERN, and theorists supported the conceptual work. At that time, Poles were building a large part of the calorimeter for the DELPHI experiment. Development of good international scientific relations in the 1960s Poland owes to professors Marian Danysz and Jerzy Pniewski from Warsaw and prof. Marian Mięsowicz from Krakow. It was, among other things, thanks to their efforts that in 1963 our country obtained the status of an "observer".
Full membership in CERN Polska was granted on July 1, 1991. It was the first Western international organization to admit Poland to the group of its members after political changes in Europe.
“Before 1991, Polish groups participated in some projects, but Poland did not participate in deciding the future of the laboratory, Poles could not be employed at CERN, let alone hold any exposed positions. Polish companies could not apply for contracts at CERN. In July 1991, Poland became a co-owner of the world's largest particle physics laboratory "- told PAP Dr. Paweł Bruckman de Renstrom from the Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences.
It is estimated that all CERN employees are about 2500. Among them there are 550 Poles, including about 80 people working full-time at CERN; 170 people are various types of scholarship holders and students from Poland, and the remaining 300 people are Polish CERN users employed in national institutions. Poles employed at CERN are not only scientists. Sebastian Łobieński is the deputy manager for computer security at CERN.
“Research conducted at CERN brings about 10 doctorates a year, and over the 30 years of our presence at CERN, about 100 Polish students have benefited from 2-3 months of research internships under the + CERN Summer Studies + program. Similarly, in 2007-2014 about 550 Polish physics teachers participated in the weekly training courses + Techer Program + organized at CERN, ”says Dr. Paweł Bruckman de Renstrom.
"When I was a Polish delegate to the CERN Council, I was impressed with the effectiveness of applications by young Poles for student and doctoral technical internships. These were applications considered in competition systems, without clearly imposed normalization to the size of the contribution, and one year we were third in terms of the number of these internships "- told PAP Prof. Agnieszka Zalewska, who in 2013-2015 was the head of the CERN Council.
Since joining CERN, Polish experimental groups have been part of all five great experiments at the Large Hadron Collider: ALICE, LHCb, ATLAS, CMS and TOTEM. For many years, Polish scientists have also been participating in experiments from outside the LHC concerning, for example, the study of the three-dimensional and spin structure of the nucleon or the shapes that the nuclei of radon, radium and mercury isotopes may take.
When asked about the future of research at CERN, Prof. Zalewska and Dr. Bruckman de Renstrom talk about the continuation of the LHC program. "We will examine the properties of the Higgs boson discovered in 2012 and continue to look for traces of physics beyond the Standard Model - both directly looking for new particles and indirectly looking for significant deviations from the Model's predictions," they agree. The update of the European Particle Physics Strategy, adopted in 2020 by the CERN Council, provides for development research and feasibility studies for the FCC (Future Circular Collider).
Currently, CERN consists of 23 member states. The annual budget is CHF 1,168,000. The Polish financial contribution to the CERN budget (calculated in proportion to GDP) is 2.8 per cent, which is approximately PLN 135 million.
On the occasion of the round anniversary of Poland's presence at CERN, prof. Agnieszka Zalewska reminds who we owe access to the Internet to.
“I don't think it is enough to remind you that the WWW protocol for using the Internet was developed at CERN and made freely available for general use. It is estimated that the website generates approx. 3 percent. global income of mankind and you can probably assume that it is also about 3 percent. Polish national income. In addition, for example, for the Windows software or the Office suite, we pay a lot of money to the American concern Microsoft. If the WWW protocol had not been developed at CERN, but had been created by Microsoft, additional large sums would flow from Poland. And one more aspect of this matter - free WWW is an intelligent form of helping poor countries. Therefore, it is worth investing in first-class science, because from time to time, apart from providing purely scientific discoveries, it provides + by-products + such as WWW ”- concludes Zalewska.
Author: Urszula Kaczorowska