Sergey Belikov of PHENIX
Sergey Belikov died early on the morning of October 22, 2007 after living with cancer for six years. Sergey was a physicist in the Physics Department at Brookhaven National Laboratory, and a member of PHENIX collaboration. He was expert in many parts of the PHENIX experiment, and worked on some of the key parts of the experiment from the Run Control program that runs the experiment, to the digitizers used in the electromagnetic calorimeter and muon tracker, but to those who worked with him, their memory is of a colleague who was always helpful, always willing to share what he knew, and never satisfied until he found a clean solution to a difficult problem.
Glenn Young, Physics Division Director at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, writes:
As part of his work on EMCal he spent 2 years at ORNL working with Paul Stankus and me of Physics Division and Alan Wintenberg, Mike Emery and Jim Walker of the former Instrumentation and Controls Division. During this period the design and prototype development of the ASICs and front-end boards for the EMCal were done. Sergey headed the entire effort to test the boards, preparing all test software, devising the needed measurements and working up the results. He also played a main role in devising and doing the tests to test prototype ASICs and then test the over ten thousand custom production chips. Once this was complete he moved to BNL to be part of the team installing and commissioning the EMCal in time for the initial operation of PHENIX.
Sergey next went to Iowa State University, where John Lajoie, Associate Professor of Physics, remembers:
Sergey Belikov joined the experimental nuclear physics group at Iowa State University in 1999 and became the on-site person responsible for the PHENIX Level-1 trigger. Sergey came at a critical time, when we were just putting together the final boards for Global Level-1 and working feverishly to test out first set of trigger electronics, the BBC Local Level-1. Sergey jumped in immediately and developed the online monitoring systems for GL1 and BBC LL1, and was deeply involved in the debugging and setup of both of these systems. As the on-site person responsible for Level-1, Sergey was on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You could call him any time of day with a problem or a question and he would not only have the answer, but either log in remotely or jump in his car and drive over to help. He maintained this level of effort even through difficult chemotherapy, when most people were unaware of his illness. Sergey joined the BNL group in 2003, and although he took on many other responsibilities at that point he continued to assist and support Level-1.
Sergey had an amazing capacity to fully grasp difficult, complicated problems, as was evident in the work he did in understanding the BBC trigger bias in pp events, or the interactions of the various components of the DAQ, for example. There were many times that I would disagree with him, and many times he would go away and come back with an absolutely clear, iron-clad argument that demonstrated he understood the problem much better than I did. It was fun losing an argument to Sergey - you really gained from it! With Sergey's passing we lost an outstanding scientist and a very good friend.
Michael Tannenbaum, PHENIX group leader in the Physics Department at Brookhaven National Laboratory, remembers Sergey:
I first met Sergey in the early 1990s when he was a scientist at IHEP in Protvino, Russia, collaborating on building the Electromagnetic Calorimeter (EMCal) detector for the PHENIX experiment. Sergey made major contributions to this magnificent device, the centerpiece of the PHENIX experiment, in all phases, including conception, design, testing and implementation.
When we at Brookhaven National Laboratory lost one of our key scientists, an expert in the trigger and data acquisition (DAQ) system, to industry, we did a worldwide search for an equivalent expert to replace these vital skills, and we selected Sergey for this job as clearly the best from a pool of excellent candidates. Since 2003, Sergey has been responsible for modernizing and upgrading the entire PHENIX data acquisition software and its interface with the hardware. He provided major innovative improvements to the Online Control System (ONCS), the Run Control and the Data Acquisition (DAQ) systems, which at present hold the world record (600MByte/s) for data archiving rate. His lasting improvements are the "Super Big Partion'' or a single server for starting a run involving more than 15 independent subsystems, the Virtual DAQ Expert tool which analyzes the status of all components of the PHENIX DAQ, spots problems, figures out the cause and instructs DAQ operator how to fix them and the Emergency Stop Feature which brings data taking to a graceful halt in case of an unexpected crash of the Run Control Server.
In additional to his technical ability and achievements, Sergey was an excellent research physicist having performed important work on luminosity calibration and centrality definition. He also was heavily involved with work on two difficult measurements in Au+Au collisions.
In January 2007 when he found that his life span would be measured in weeks or at best months, he told us that: "It is too boring to just lay down on my bed or sofa and do nothing, so I'm going to work from home" and he did just that. Sergey continued to phone in to the PHENIX control room when he noticed that something was not right and he continued to tune his "Virtual DAQ Expert'' under "battle conditions'' during the Run-7 data taking. Sergey continued to be productive right up to the end, an inspiration to us all. He will be greatly missed, but his contributions and memories will remain with us.
His many friends remember Sergey as the kindest of men, and he and his wife Lyuba the most hospitable of hosts. We will miss him for his expertise, but we feel the loss of a friend. Sergey's funeral was in Protvino, Russia, on October 29. Andrey Sukhanov has posted some pictures of Sergey's life here.