Homage to Professor Hans-Åke Gustafsson

It was with deep sadness that we learned of the death of Professor Hans-Åke Gustafsson, an internationally recognized scientist, beloved colleague and friend. He passed away on Wednesday January 13th at the Lund University Hospital, surrounded by his loved ones, after a short battle against cancer. This is a great loss for all of us in ALICE and the whole heavy ion community.

Hans-Åke, Professor at Lund University, was one of the pioneers of heavy ion physics with relativistic beams since its very beginning. He started his research at CERN, as a fellow at the ISOLDE ion beam facility, and immediately after, in the early 1980 joined the Plastic Ball collaboration at the Bevalac. One of the seminal papers of the field on the discovery of collective flow in relativistic nuclear collisions, co-authored by Hans-Åke, Hans Gutbrod and colleagues, stems from this period. From that point on he was always at the forefront of research with relativistic nuclear beams, being for three decades one of the reference figures in the field, highly respected for his rigorous judgment and commitment to research. He was one of the key players in the heavy ion program at the SPS with the WA80 and WA98 experiments, at the Brookhaven RHIC with PHENIX, and of course at CERN with ALICE, which he joined at the very beginning and to which he greatly contributed in shaping. Together with his team at the University of Lund, Hans-Åke played a major role in the design, construction and commissioning of the ALICE Time Projection Chamber. His enthusiasm and knowledge accompanied ALICE through the years, providing guidance and motivation to young researchers and momentum to the whole collaboration. For many years, he served on the ALICE management, as Deputy Spokesperson and Chair of the experiment’s Editorial Board and Conference Committee. Hans-Åke played an essential role in the first ALICE physics publication, actively helping until the very last moment while already under cancer treatment. Through his experimental work, his contribution to the organization of innumerable conferences and workshops, and his participation to research administration at the international level, he was one of the fundamental individuals in shaping this entire field of Physics.

Besides his many scientific achievements, we would like to recall his many human qualities. Everyone who knew Hans Åke speaks of his unfailing good humor and courteous smile. He always sought a more profound human contact and used every occasion to help his colleagues, especially the younger fellows. The loss is there, tangible and real within everyone, because we are deprived of the joy of his company, but the many fond memories we have of him represent an invaluable and indelible inheritance he has left all of us: colleagues, friends or simple acquaintances alike.

The ALICE Collaboration