Well-rounded scientists who directly oversee the building of accelerators and reactors swap glory for grander achievements

High on a ridge in Berkeley, Calif., construction workers swarm over a $100 million scientific instrument, called the Advanced Light Source, that will allow scientists to peer into living cells and photograph lightning-fast chemical reactions. A continent away, at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y., bulldozers have begun chewing up the dirt for the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, a $400 million accelerator that will give physicists a window into nuclear processes that have not occurred in the natural universe since microseconds after the Big Bang.

Similar activity is going on in Norfolk, Va., home of the $430 million Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF); Argonne, Ill., future home of the $450 million Advanced Photon Source (APS); and Oak Ridge, Tenn., site of the $900 million Advanced Neutron Source (ANS).

Scientists expect that these massive...

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