Fermi National Laboratory

Volume 23  |  Friday, October 6, 2000  |  Number 17
In This Issue  |  FermiNews Main Page

This Is Your Life, Bob and Cathy
by Mike Perricone

Now that they've managed a project lasting seven years, facing frequent and stringent reviews, involving a thousand people and $110 million, directly affecting the future of Fermilab and the entire field of particle physics, Bob Kephart and Cathy Newman-Holmes can testify that the job does not become part of your life.

"No, it swallows your life whole," said Kephart, co-project manager with Newman-Holmes of the CDF upgrades for Run II of the Tevatron. "It's a big project in terms of dollars, of people, of almost any measure you can imagine."

Cathy Newman-Holmes With the massive, virtually reinvented detector rolling out of the assembly hall and into the collision hall to begin its commissioning run, Newman-Holmes also can imagine the credits rolling--and rolling, and rolling, as they do at the end of a major Hollywood movie. The cost and scale of the project have been similar, with the numbers of people involved, the layers of complexities and different skills required, the sheer scope of the effort and coordination, the exhaustive attention to detail, and the startling thought that all those individual components and subprojects have actually come together as a finished product.

"Maybe I could be a producer," Newman-Holmes joked. "But I thought this might be a good way to give someone a feel for what it means to manage a hundred-million-dollar project. Making a movie also involves a lot of different people. There is also an element of creativity. You don't do something exactly like what has already been done, if you want a really good movieˇor in our case, a really good detector."

Of course, there are also major differences.

"The CDF upgrade took a lot longer than making a typical movie" she pointed out. "I suspect we spent relatively more on 'stuff' and less on salaries. We certainly didn't have marketing expenses which are maybe half the cost of making a movie. And as Bob notes, a large fraction of a movie's cost often goes to paying only a few stars. The result is that the CDF upgrade really is bigger and more complex than making a movie well, maybe except for Titanic."

Drawing parallels with big manufacturing projects in private industry further highlights the unique nature of the upgrade.

Bob Kephart Said Kephart: "If you try to explain to someone from industry how you can do a project on this scale, where many of the people who are doing it actually don't work for you, and who come from more than 50 different institutions all over the world they throw up their hands and can't imagine how it could possibly work. And it can only work because you have very smart people who are all dedicated to making it work. The project leaders are absolutely crucial, particularly our project engineer, Rich Stanek, and our financial person, Connee Trimby, and all those people who made our lives much easier than they would have been otherwise."

"It's not a 40-hour week," Kephart continued. "It can be very intense for weeks at a time. We might be dealing with a crisis, or having a [Department of Energy] review, or getting ready for the commissioning run. Even if there isn't a crisis happening, there are always the dual roles as project manager and department head. There are the personnel and financial issues of running a department. Layered on top of that is the project itself. As a DOE project, we track costs and milestones, and periodically undergo a review to ensure that we're making progress at the required rate and staying within budget."

Among the greatest challenges: increasing expectations of the luminosity to be produced by the new Main Injector and the improved Tevatron meant replacing the entire tracking system. The Central Tracking Chamber, for example, had 6,000 wires in its first incarnation; for Run II, the chamber has 30,000 wires. Another major challenge: building what Kephart called "by far the biggest and most complex silicon detector yet built for a high energy physics experiment."

"We pushed industry to do things that were right on the edge of their capabilities," Kephart said.

There was also the push to have a life in "all-Run II" households. Kephart's wife, Karen, has worked on the CDF outer tracker and currently works at the silicon detector (SiDet) facility. Newman-Holmes's husband, Steve Holmes, now Associate Director for Accelerators, was project manager for the Main Injector.

"There were some times when I had to check my watch and dash out when we were in the middle of a meeting," said Newman-Holmes. "People have been very understanding."

The detector will undergo a commissioning run until November, when it will be rolled back into the assembly hall. The test version of the silicon detector will be removed and replaced with the final version now being completed at SiDet. The remaining electronics, and components of the muon system will be installed, and the detector will be ready for collisions when Run II of the Tevatron begins on March 1, 2001--the end of one chapter and the beginning of another, as Newman-Holmes said.

"That's the big milestone," Kephart said. "Cathy and I can think about doing physics again."


last modified 10/6/2000   email Fermilab