Marcia Clemmitt

Physicists Play a Hands-On Role in Super Facilities Construction

The Scientist - May 27, 1991

"When you're a young scientist, the joy [of discovery] means so much to you that you want to do your own work and put your own name on things," says Colin West, project director for the ANS, a research nuclear reactor, now in the design stage at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. "But if you're doing good science, creative science, eventually you find you have more ideas than you can ever carry out yourself.

"Then you find a job like this, and the even greater joy of having many, many collaborators--not just those who are building it, but also those who will use it down the years. And lo and behold, you're contributing more, and doing far more science, than you had ever dreamed."

West was perfect for the job, says Alex Zucker, an associate director at Oak Ridge and the man who hired West, because of his willingness to forgo the urge to attach his own name to a piece of work. He was also capable of cutting all ties to his previous research, and focusing his energies on the ANS.

"The job is so demanding that the person has to devote all his time to it," says Zucker. "He can't be looking down the road to what he'll do next if this falls through. And he can't be keeping one eye on his favorite research project."

"You have to be the manager, you have to be an accountant, you have to sweep the floor."