Haroon Rafique
19 Aug 2021
- Evan Jones



New ISIS starter Haroon tells us of his journey from University to CERN and now to ISIS where he works as an Accelerator Physicist.

ISIS Accelerator Physicist Haroon Rafique whilst working at CERN


It was after reading the Dan Brown book 'Angels and Demons' Haroon knew that he wanted to work at CERN and pursue physics. He saw CERN as a “Temple of Science".

​He started his academic journey into the world of physics when he went to the University of Manchester to study a masters there in 2007. After completing his masters he then declined an offer to stay at Manchester and do a PhD, instead opting to continue his studies by pursuing a PhD in the study of beam collimation at the University of Huddersfield as he felt that at Manchester he would just be working in an office all day.

His PhD at Huddersfield involved frequent collaboration with, and trips to, CERN, where he started to build up a network of contacts there. After his PhD he returned to the University of Manchester as a post-doctoral research associate, where he helped contribute to the design of the proposed high energy Future Circular Collider (FCC). He wanted to move away from the topic pf his PhD to expand his scientific horizons and knowledge base.

It was after this that he became a Senior Fellow at CERN working on the Proton Synchrotron injector producing protons that would ultimately end up in the LHC. One of his main tasks was to solve the problem that was being caused by the fact that the beam of particles would grow in size when travelling between accelerators. He designed and ran simulations to solve this and became the second largest user of CPU at CERN with over a thousand years of CPU time used!

Now working at ISIS Neutron and Muon Source as an accelerator physicist, Haroon says “CERN was the perfect preparation for my role at ISIS" and speaking about the differences in the two institutions he said “At CERN everyone was a specialist so when you had a problem or a task you could go to someone who was a world leader in that field, whereas here at ISIS there's far more of an opportunity for you to overcome problems and learn a lot more on the job, this really excites me"

Outside of the world of physics Haroon has spent a considerable amount of time as a basketball coach. His coaching career started aged 15 at his school, and continued into university. When he left Manchester to do his PhD in Huddersfield he continued by coaching the University of Huddersfield women's basketball first team, as well as being an assistant coach for the men's first and second team, taking them to four promotions in four consecutive seasons, with the fourth season also being an undefeated one. After leaving Manchester and joining CERN as a fellow he took on the role of being the head coach of the CERN men's basketball team, “There were a few big egos on the team", said Haroon, “these guys were ridiculously good athletes as well as some of the smartest people in the world so it took a lot to keep them in check!"

Alongside his basketball coaching Haroon has been heavily involved in scientific outreach programmes throughout his career. “Growing up I was always on the gifted and talented programmes put on at school, I feel like it is my duty as a scientist to give it back." During his PhD Haroon gave talks to school children and sixth form students in colleges, he used this time to develop and hone his presentations to be properly tailored for the correct audiences. “I want to use the outreach work to inspire the next generation of scientists. We have never needed more scientists; it is the responsibility of science to defend science."

He has worked with the Tactile Collider project which aims to bring the science behind particle accelerators to the visually impaired by the use of interactive workshops that use the mediums of touch and sound to communicate knowledge using “specially developed tactile objects and fascinating soundscapes".


60 Second Sketch:

We ask our interviewees to answer these 10 questions, the only catch: they've got to do them as fast as they can.


1)       If you weren't a scientist what would you be?


As a kid I wanted to be a fighter pilot, now I'd say a role where I get to help people


2)       What is your favourite film?


Fantastic Mr Fox, the Wes Anderson version


3)       If you had a time machine where would you travel back to?


A time before humans were around


4)       Which historical figure do you admire the most?


I don't like the idea of 'the great man of history' I admire the unsung heroes


5)       Favourite place on Earth?




6)       What are you currently reading and what is your favourite book?


I am currently reading “Why women are blamed for everything" by Dr Jessica Taylor and my favourite books are the “Master and Commander" series by Pat O'Brien


7)       Favourite food?


Dad's Indian cooking


8)       Have you lived in another country?


Yes, Switzerland and France


9)       If you had the power to solve one problem in the world what would it be?


Humanity causes all the biggest problems… I'd like to be able to solve some of them


10)   If you could have a superpower what would it be?


The ability to affect positive change



Contact: Jones, Evan (STFC,RAL,ISIS)