New Head of the Users Office

Doris Chromek-Burckhart took over as Head of the Users Office on 1 June. She succeeds Chris Onions, who held the post for more than ten years before retiring in 2010, and Jose Salicio Diez, who replaced him temporarily.


Doris Chromek-Burckhart photographed by Pierre Gildemyn.

Doris Chromek-Burckhart arrived at CERN about thirty years ago after completing a physics degree at Mainz University in Germany, and began her career with the Organization working on data acquisition systems for the experiments. She then joined ATLAS, where she took part in the development, commissioning and operation of the experiment's own data acquisition system. Her appointment as Head of the Users Office was preceded by two years as CERN's Equal Opportunities Officer from 2009 to 2010.

The Users Office, which has now been in existence for over twenty years, manages administrative procedures and generally makes life easier for the 10,000 or more users from around a hundred different countries, in collaboration with CERN's various services and the Host States. "Before the LHC was commissioned at the end of 2008, there were many users working on the design and construction of the LHC experiments," says Doris. "Today, our guest scientists – increasingly students, doctoral students and post-docs – are here above all to analyse the huge quantity of data being produced by the experiments to discover new physics."

The users have vastly varying profiles, ranging from students to Nobel Prize winners. Some spend only a few days of their career at CERN, while others spend their whole professional lives here. "Today, 32% of users are "resident", which means that they are at CERN for more than 50% of the year," explains Doris. Their passion for science leads them to conduct their own research, give lectures and head projects in their home institutes, all the while taking part in the CERN experiments. "Guest scientists have many responsibilities, from analysing data to supervising various projects. They are so enthusiastic about the research being done at CERN that many work round the clock seven days a week when they come to the Laboratory!" adds Doris.

The Users Office team is currently preparing to receive a batch of new arrivals since, as Doris points out, "there are always a lot more people here in the summer, not only students but also scientists making the most of the end of the university teaching year to come and work at CERN. The members of our team, who are highly professional and always do their utmost to ensure that everything goes smoothly, will rise to the challenge as usual." The Users Office is well on track to fulfilling its mission and with someone at the helm who admits that her overriding concern is the well being of others, the future looks promising.

by Anaïs Schaeffer