Alexandru A. Marin 1945 – 2005

This page is part of the Alex Marin Memorial. The following article was originally published in the December 2005 issue of ATLAS eNews. This page is also located here.

It is with great sorrow that we report that ATLAS Physicist Alexandru (Alex) A. Marin passed away November 14, 2005 in Geneva. He died after a courageous two-week struggle against necrotizing fasciitis, a very rare and rapidly progressing destructive infection. Employed by Boston University and working at Harvard University, Alex was a productive and popular member of the ATLAS muon detector group. He had been playing a leading role in the installation of end-cap muon chambers in Building 180 at CERN and was a long-term member of the ATLAS Muon Collaboration.

After the Boston Muon Consortium (BMC) MDT chambers were constructed and commissioned, Marin relocated to CERN in May 2005 to take on installation and commissioning responsibilities of the US MDT endcap chambers. He had spent the previous seven years employed by Boston University as a physicist with the BMC, and had worked with Steve Ahlen, Peter Hurst, Rick Haggerty and many others to assemble and integrate end-cap muon chambers. His work was of the highest quality, and he distinguished himself repeatedly with creative ideas for the chambers that will help them work well for many years at the LHC.

Alex spent his early career working on high energy physics and astrophysics experiments in his native Romania, the Soviet Union and CERN. He received his Ph.D. in Physics at the Central Institute for Physics in Bucharest in 1977. He was Principal Investigator for experiments carried out at CERN and at Dubna from 1974 – 1979, and from 1974 – 1983 was Principal Investigator for the Transition Radiation Experiment on the INTERCOSMOS 17 satellite, and for the ASTRO1 and ASTRO2 experiments on the Romanian Astronaut flight.

Alex moved to the United States in 1983 where he played leading roles in some of the more important large international experiments over the next 22 years. Altogether, Alex was co-author on 266 publications during a remarkably productive career that was carried out all over the world.

For MACRO he designed and built the laser calibration system for the very large array of liquid scintillators. MACRO did the most sensitive searches for magnetic monopoles and other exotic hypothetical particles, and was the first experiment to confirm the discovery of neutrino oscillations by the Super-K detector.

He worked on the PBAR and EXAM anti-matter balloon experiments, which contributed to the design of the AMS magnetic spectrometer that was later flown on the Space Shuttle.

For L3 at LEP he designed and built the radiation monitor for the silicon tracker and built a beam dump trigger for LEP. These devices kept the silicon tracker working safely for many years. L3 confirmed many results of the Standard Model of particle physics, and showed there are only three types of neutrinos in nature.

For LIGO, the sensitive gravity wave experiment, Alex designed and built environmental monitoring systems. LIGO is the first large scale interferometric detector to be built, and it will become increasingly sensitive over the coming decade as it searches for gravitational waves, predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

In 1991, Alex, with Steve Ahlen and Bing Zhou, proposed and developed a muon system concept for the Superconducting Super Collider that was virtually identical to the one later chosen for ATLAS. For ATLAS he built 81 muon chambers and coordinated the construction of all these chambers. Alex developed many of the practical techniques needed to mass-produce these chambers with their highly demanding precision criteria. We expect that Alex’s work on ATLAS will be his most enduring legacy.

Alex impressed all who knew and worked with him with his humor, grit, dedication, and courage. Some of his technical solutions were extremely simple but brilliantly effective. He was always willing to fight for what he thought was right, even when others would have compromised. He fought long and hard with considerable personal sacrifice to bring his wife and daughter to a new country for a better life.

On the very day when he became ill, he had gone to work despite feeling bad with a severe pain in his leg. Later that day he had to be carried by helicopter to the Geneva hospital where he lapsed into a coma a few hours later. This was characteristic of Alex – he had a nonchalance regarding his personal well-being, and his personal courage was demonstrated repeatedly through his career.

All of us had our favorite “Alex-Romanian” jokes and our favorite anecdotes about Alex (most of which involved his beloved dachshund Rexy, or his extraordinary talents as a driver of fast cars on narrow roads in Italy). He was a true hero of physics, and he will be missed very much by his colleagues and friends, who number in the hundreds, if not thousands. Alex is survived by members of his remarkable family, his father, two sisters, wife, daughter and grand daughter. He has been immortalized with the attachment of a plaque dedicating his contributions to sector C09 of the Big Wheel of the muon system.


The Friends and Colleagues of Alexandru (Alex) Marin