03 Abril 2024

UNAB strengthens ties with the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)

The Universidad Andrés Bello welcomed the CERN delegation to discuss the work carried out by the UNAB Theoretical and Experimental Center for Particle Physics and the SAPHIR Millennium Institute. The meeting was part of Chile's process to become a member state of this prestigious world research center.

As the host institution of the Millennium Institute SAPHIR, dedicated to research in subatomic physics, Universidad Andrés Bello (UNAB) and its Faculty of Exact Sciences received this week a delegation from the European Organization for Nuclear Research, better known as CERN. Based in Switzerland, CERN is the world’s largest particle physics laboratory.

This international visit is part of a three-day visit to Chile, during which the delegation will evaluate the local science and technology ecosystem and decide on the feasibility of our country becoming an associated state of CERN. If successful, Chile would be the first Latin American country to join this important scientific research center.

UNAB Dean of Research and Doctoral Studies Carolina Torrealba valued the visit, noting that it reflects «the leadership position that UNAB has achieved in this area. We are an institution that actively contributes to CERN and want to continue collaborating.»

Torrealba indicated that the University has determined to strengthen the Center for Theoretical and Experimental Particle Physics (CTEPP), «which is a real catapult that drives our students working in its laboratories to participate in large-scale, world-class science, technology, and innovation projects.»

To acquire the status of the associated state, applicant countries must meet specific criteria stipulated by CERN. These include academic, research, innovation, industrial capabilities, and government support.

Gonzalo Arenas, Director of International Relations of the Ministry of Science, Technology, Knowledge, and Innovation, said, «The visit to UNAB reaffirms once again that Chile has the capabilities that the country belongs at CERN.»

A Fruitful Meeting

The delegation visiting our country is composed of Charlotte Lindberg, Director of International Relations at CERN; Joachim Mnich, Director of Research and Computing at CERN; Salvatore Mele, Senior Advisor for International Relations at CERN; and Inmaculada Figueroa, Deputy Director of Internationalization of Science and Innovation of the Spanish Ministry of Science.

On the afternoon of March 11, the group arrived at UNAB’s Casona Campus for a meeting. This meeting was attended by Provost Gonzalo Guzmán; Carolina Torrealba, the Dean of Research and Doctoral Studies; Pierre Romagnoli, the Dean of the Faculty of Exact Sciences; Sergey Kuleshov, the Director of the Center for Theoretical and Experimental Particle Physics (CTEPP) and Director of the SAPHIR Millennium Institute; and Jilberto Zamora, the Deputy Director of CTEPP and a member of SAPHIR. Other UNAB authorities and members from universities associated with the SAPHIR Millennium Institute also participated.

During the meeting, Dean Torrealba outlined the strategic partnership between UNAB and CERN before introducing Jilberto Zamora, the Deputy Director of CTEPP at UNAB and a member of SAPHIR. Zamora then presented the planned contribution of hardware being developed in Chile for the center in Switzerland.

The visit culminated with a tour of the CTEPP UNAB laboratories and the SAPHIR Millennium Institute facilities, where the technical engineers could show the work they do with state-of-the-art equipment.

Professor Zamora, who actively collaborates with several CERN experiments, assessed the meeting positively. «I think today we showed what we do and what we are capable of doing. There is serious work being done here, and things are being done well,» said the academic, who was present at CERN in Switzerland when President Gabriel Boric announced Chile’s intention to begin the process of becoming a member state of this organization.


It should be noted that the Universidad Andrés Bello has an established relationship with CERN through the scientific work carried out by the CTEPP UNAB and the Millennium Institute SAPHIR, with participation in CERN experiments such as ATLAS, NA64, and SND.

As a result of the interest of this research center in the work of UNAB, at the end of January, an institutional delegation of UNAB was invited to Switzerland to visit the CERN facilities in what was called by this organization «UNAB Day at CERN.»

For a day, UNAB Provost Gonzalo Guzmán; the Dean of Research and Doctoral Studies Carolina Torrealba; the deputy director of CTEPP, Jilberto Zamora; and the rector of the professional institute AIEP, which is a part of UNAB, María Loreto Ferrari, met with CERN representatives and toured some of the most emblematic experiments.

UNAB representatives toured the LHCb experiment, guided by spokesman Vincenzo Vagnoni, Research Director of the National Institute for Nuclear Physics in Bologna, Italy. After lunch with the center’s authorities, the delegation toured the ATLAS experiment, guided by its spokesman, a CERN researcher, Andreas Hoecker. After the tour, the delegation held a meeting to strengthen ties, which was also attended by Salvatore Mele, Senior Advisor for International Relations for Latin America at CERN, and Giovanni De Lellis, spokesperson for the SND experiment.

For Dean Torrealba, the opportunity to learn about these experiments, located one hundred meters underground, was very exciting. «One understands the sense of international cooperation; it becomes apparent when you go to this mega structure, and the leader of the Atlas experiment tells you that in that giant wheel are all the Chilean detectors that arrived on time, despite the pandemic. That’s when you understand why we invest so much as a university and as a state.”

Indeed, since CTEPP was established in 2020, UNAB has significantly invested in equipment, laboratories, and personnel. The facility recently underwent expansion, leading to initiatives aimed at bolstering our workforce. «We are now in the process of hiring technical engineers and have also established a partnership with AIEP to enhance technical training in this domain. This underscores the university’s steadfast and ongoing commitment.»

In this regard, Carolina Torrealba emphasized that UNAB’s work focuses not only on research but also on technological development. «Here, we manufacture elements that go to CERN, which are fundamental for their experiments, and through this, we are promoting and improving the technical and technological development capabilities that will allow us to work with local industry or others in developments associated with the area.»

Hence, it is essential to strengthen ties with the international community. «The deep understanding of international research cooperation systems is something that we have to permanently revisit to achieve what we want as a university, which is not only to do more research but also to ensure that our research is associated with an impact.»

SAPHIR, a Collaborative Effort

The Millennium Institute for Subatomic Physics at the High Energy Frontier, SAPHIR, is a research center funded by the Millennium Science Initiative (MSI) and in which, in addition to UNAB as the host institution, the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (PUC), Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María and Universidad La Serena participate. In addition to UNAB as the host institution, the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (PUC), Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María, and Universidad de La Serena also participate.

It is directed by Sergey Kuleshov, an academic in the Department of Physical Sciences and director of the Experimental Theoretical Center for Particle Physics (CTEPP) of Universidad Andrés Bello; the deputy director is Francisca Garay, a professor of the Institute of Physics of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.

SAPHIR scientists consolidate national research efforts that already collaborate on CERN experiments and whose work is also subject to evaluation by the visiting committee. In fact, on the same day before the visit to UNAB’s Casona Campus, the CERN delegation visited the Pontificia Universidad Católica, with plans to also visit the Universidad Federico Santa María.

Escrito por rosario campillo