BERKELEY'S NEWS • OCTOBER 01, 2022

James Strait selected to manage Cosmic Microwave Background project

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FERMILAB | COURTESY

James Strait, a physicist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, has been selected as director for the Stage 4 Cosmic Microwave Background project. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is the lead laboratory for the project.

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JUNE 05, 2022

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, or Fermilab, physicist James Strait has been selected as the next director for the Stage 4 Cosmic Microwave Background project, or CMB-S4, at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, or LBNL.

CMB-S4 will deploy an array of 21 radio telescopes to detect the oldest light — photons — that were released 380,000 years after the Big Bang, according to Natalie Roe, associate laboratory director for the Physical Sciences at LBNL. She noted Strait is a distinguished scientist at Fermilab who has the required expertise for his position, adding that he has led several major scientific construction projects in the past.

“I am thrilled that Jim has agreed to serve as a CMB-S4 Project Director,“ Roe said in a press release. “This is a challenging project, both technically and programmatically, and Jim’s experience in successfully leading large projects has prepared him well to take on this important role.”

According to Roe, who described the project in the press release as an “ambitious next generation experiment,” there was an international search conducted by a committee comprising members from several national laboratories and universities to find the next director of the project. After the committee interviewed and evaluated numerous candidates, the lead laboratory — LBNL — made the final decision to select Strait, Roe said.

Roe added the project will use telescopes deployed in high, dry regions such as the South Pole and Chilean Atacama desert. She said the telescopes will be equipped with sensitive superconducting detectors to create a “baby picture” of the universe.

CMB-S4 is a “very exciting” project, according to Strait, and that he hopes to help make the project a success to uncover “deep secrets of the universe.”

Strait said when he first started working at Fermilab, he was assigned to work on the development of superconducting magnets for the Superconducting Super Collider, a megascience project in the late ‘80s. Here, Strait said he learned how to manage teams of scientists, engineers and technicians to execute complex projects.

“I started out as a random scientist and I figured out how to organize things,” Strait said. “The combination of that ability and my technical and scientific knowledge has made me reasonably successful at managing these large scientific enterprises.”

Strait said he was once named the U.S. project leader of a collaboration to build the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator and the source of a Nobel prize for the discovery of the Higgs boson particle.

Strait said CMB-S4 would be the “ultimate genealogy,” showing the universe’s origins. He noted all cultures have origin stories, adding the project is trying to conduct a scientific and fact-based study of the universe’s origins.

“My hope is to build this thing and have it collect data and to uncover incredible secrets of the universe,” Strait said.

Contact Victor Corona at 

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JUNE 06, 2022


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