The wish of a lifetime

When 16-year-old Marcus was diagnosed with a brain tumour in September 2010, he asked the Make-A-Wish Foundation for one rather unusual thing: to see the LHC. On 23 August, CERN got together with the Foundation to make that wish come true.


Marcus in the CMS Control Centre.

To describe English teenager Marcus as a passionate aspiring physicist would be putting it mildly: “My trip to CERN was like bringing a goblin to a gold mine,” says Marcus. "CERN hosts the biggest physics experiment around and getting to visit it was supermassive to me." After receiving his diagnosis last year, Marcus threw himself into his studies – particularly his physics classes. Despite 6 weeks of radiotherapy and months of home tutoring, his work paid off: he received an A* in his Physics GCSE, earning an outstanding 100% score. Thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Marcus found himself celebrating his results at CERN.

For over 31 years, the Make-A-Wish Foundation has been granting wishes to thousands of children and teenagers with life-threatening illnesses. In order to grant Marcus' wish, the foundation teemed up with CERN to organise an unforgettable day. To make the day extra special, they enlisted the help of Wolfgang von Rüden, the recently retired Head of CERN openlab and former Head of the IT Department.

Marcus with theorist John Ellis. (Photo by Claudia Marcelloni.)

On the big day, Wolfgang picked Marcus and his family up from their hotel in Geneva. From there, it was off to the Universe of Particles exhibition and then the CERN Control Centre for a guided tour with Django Manglunki. After lunch, Marcus and his family were taken to Point 5 to meet Dave Barney and Micheal Hoch, who took them to visit the CMS Underground Service Cavern and the CMS control centre. "The physicists at CERN were really interesting and inspiring people, and it was an amazing opportunity to meet them,” recounts Marcus.

But the day wasn't over yet, and Marcus still had one more physicist to meet: John Ellis. “A very 'out of this world' moment was talking to John Ellis, who was great to have debates with about the outer workings of the Universe,” says Marcus. “We may have gone a bit beyond the limits of human knowledge, but that is what science is all about.” For the last stop on his trip, Wolfgang took Marcus to the CERN Computing Centre.

Marcus is planning to study physics at university, and hopes some day to return to CERN as a physicist. "I want to thank everyone at CERN for taking the time to do this for me, it meant a lot," he concludes.

by Katarina Anthony