SESAME: opening doors through science

Two Pakistani scientists arrived at CERN on 2 February at the height of the cold snap. They will spend the coming year working in collaboration with CERN’s magnet experts, learning the technology and contributing to ongoing projects.


Sumera Yamin (left) and Khalid Mansoor Hassan (right) with quadrupole magnets in the I8 testing facility.

Sumera Yamin, a physicist, and Khalid Mansoor Hassan, an electrical engineer, both from the National Centre for Physics in Islamabad, came to CERN under an agreement with Pakistan. “They started contributing right away, helping us design and build new magnets for the ALPHA experiment,” says Davide Tommasini, Head of the resistive magnet section. “They fitted right in, just like I had expected. It is amazing to see that all scientists share the same approach.” The two scientists will also contribute to some aspects of the magnet design and the technical specifications for the SESAME project, the Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East, the first major international research centre for the region.

SESAME was set up according to the CERN model and is being developed under the auspices of UNESCO. Its current members are: Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, the Palestinian Authority and Turkey. CERN is supporting this initiative by sharing its expertise, in particular for the magnet system. In 2010, CERN and SESAME directors signed a collaboration protocol. CERN’s experts will also give training to SESAME personnel on request.

Pakistan is a member of both SESAME and the CMS collaboration. Its goal is to support CERN in its efforts in favour of SESAME, and, by the same token, to build expertise in accelerator science, technology and design for domestic use.

SESAME's main building in Allan, Jordan, was completed in 2008. By 2015, this research centre will start welcoming scientists from all its member states. As a “user facility”, scientists will come for short visits, perform a specific experiment and return home for the data analysis. “We are getting a lot of help and attention from the whole group,” says Khalid. “Every time we need to discuss something, someone suggests we do it over a coffee!”

But discussing everything and nothing over coffee is not the only new experience they had at CERN. “This is a very different learning experience,” adds Sumera. “It's more cooperative, more open.” Both Sumera and Khalid are enjoying CERN's multicultural environment and are happily soaking up lots of new knowledge.

by Pauline Gagnon