CERN Accelerating science

European Organization for Nuclear Research

Extraordinary Engineering

By far the largest scientific apparatus ever built, the Large Hadron Collider is the pinnacle of engineering accomplishment in particle accelerators and a showcase of CERN’s prominent role in pushing the frontiers of science. The construction and running of an equipment of this size and complexity require meticulous planning, international support and an astounding amount of resources in both manpower and engineering strategies. Much is known of CERN’s vision to look for answers to mankind’s oldest wonders about the building blocks of our universe, but a great deal can still be discovered about the extraordinary engineering solutions that have been put in place to facilitate the realization of this vision. 

More than 60% of CERN’s staff is engineer or is involved in some kind of engineering work. These engineers (approximately 2500 of them) build, run, and maintain the facility used by half of the world’s particle physicists. Besides these permanent employees, each year hundreds of engineering students (summer student or technical student) arrive at CERN to participate in a range of engineering projects and learn from the best experts in the field. 

The field with the most people working in is the field of computing. Given the enormous amount of data produced by the LHC (able to fill up more than 1.7 million DVDs a year!) that needs to be filtered, stored and processed, this is hardly surprising. Other major engineering fields are electronics, mechanics, electrical, electromechanics and work safety or radiation protection. A breakdown of the different engineering fields at CERN can be seen in the pie chart below: