In case you were wondering April 9, 2008Posted by dorigo in humor, personal, physics.
… whether I got tenure or not, read this post.
The exam was the most similar to a coffee machine conversation I have ever had. Not that I expected anything different: I had originally prepared an answer to the question “what were your research accomplishments in the last three years” (which was more or less obligatory by the examining committee) which went like “I sucked mints with my feet on the desk.” The rationale of such an answer was to be consistent with the application, where I had included, together with a copy of my 270+ publications, one of the partially sucked mints. And with the fact that INFN is really little short than forced by law to hire me and a bunch of other souls.
But no, I did not get to answer such a question. The INFN president Petronzio was there, and he started by greeting me with an informal “tu” (in Italian, people who are not acquainted usually talk to each other using the third person), kind words, and a broad smile. I have a high esteem of Petronzio, but I had never met him in person, so I was slightly taken aback by his warm welcome. Maybe he reads this blog and he got to know me before I got to know him ? I guess I will never know, but really, when you run a discreetly trafficked site you really never know whomever knows you, your life, your scientific accomplishments and defeats, and your dirty little secrets better than your mommy does (especially if she, like mine, does not read the language you use in your blog posts).
The discussion was relaxed and brief. They wanted to know my opinions on matters such as whether starting the LHC at 10 rather than 14 TeV is going to facilitate the initial phase of the experiments (no, it isn’t doing much for us: low luminosity helps, a different energy does not); whether from the huge successes of CDF in B-physics one could extrapolate rosy predictions for LHC-B (I said hadronic machines have hard problems to face at the beginning but statistics in the end is a fantastic weapon, as CDF did show, having now results in the B sector which are competitive with BABAR and BELLE on their own ground); and whether italian researchers at CERN will have a chance to excel with respect to their foreign colleagues (and I said that the problem I see is the presence in the lab, since italians tend to travel back and forth there more than they did with Fermilab or SLAC, where longer stays helped integration and responsibilities).
In the end, I was welcomed as a tenured researcher in the institute, with the regret that they could not do that earlier. That’s life, I said.
So, unofficial as this still is (and in Italy, you really –really– never know), I am now tenured. Or rather, I will as soon as some other bureaucratic hindrances are cleared. But these should only be paperwork and some delay. Really.