Friday, September 30, 2022

Meet Cliff Brutus: Mechanical Engineer, Project Manager, and Lifelong Learner

Gene Clifford (Cliff) Brutus, an engineer at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, has a good job—literally. He is developing components to keep the particle beam circulating at the lab’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC).

As particles called ions move around the 2.4-mile circumference collider, they have a tendency to heat up and expand. That diffusion could be a problem for scientists trying to drive ions into a face-to-face collision for nuclear physics experiments at this DOE Office of Science User Facility.

“Keeping the beam cool and tightly bound maximizes the collision rate and so data scientists can make use of the amount of discoveries,” Brutus said.

Some of the cooling strategies being implemented at RHIC could also be adapted to the construction of future electron-ion colliders (EICs) – a facility that combines electrons with ions to reveal the particles within these building blocks. Will collide When completed early next decade, EIC will be the only particle collider of its kind in the world.

“Research and development (R&D) has always piqued my interest,” Brutus said. “But helping design components for this unique facility – where scientists around the world will be searching for decades to come – is extraordinary and tops the list of ideal career paths I could have taken as a mechanical engineer. “

early engineering interest

Brutus took an interest in engineering from a young age. Growing up in Haiti, he remembers how he and his brother shared a passion for motorsport.

“My brother Christian wanted to buy an all-terrain vehicle, but my parents were against it,” Brutus said. “So, he decided to build one on his own. As a supporting brother, I helped him with the manufacturing process.”

Once he inherited the go-kart a few years later, Brutus delved deep into learning how it worked and how to fix it – gaining the hands-on design, building, and maintenance experience that he Still uses today at work.

After moving to Long Island in 2006 to finish high school, Brutus drew on these experiences to earn a degree in mechanical engineering. He aimed to study at Stony Brook University (SBU), but was rejected when he first applied for their highly competitive mechanical engineering program.

“I was devastated, and I began to have doubts about my future,” he said.

Instead, Brutus attended Suffolk County Community College (SCCC). In Suffolk, he became heavily involved in the school’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program. After a year, he earned a STEM scholarship and transferred to the program of his choice at SBU.

Brutus said, the detour to community college was “one of the best paths I could take at the time.” “The STEM program at SCCC gave me an edge with a scholarship and a large network that I am still in touch with.”

Internship for a full time job

The same network led to an internship at Brookhaven Lab in 2009. As an intern in the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) program, Brutus learned all about particle collider and accelerator technologies while working under Joseph Tuozolo, now director of the Technical Systems Division. EIC.

“Cliff was a can-do type of intern,” Tuozolo said. “He was always timely and attentive, and willing to consider options to improve his projects.”

Brutus interned for General Electric (GE) Transportation in 2010. Despite being offered a full-time job at GE, Brutus felt a strong desire to complete his master’s degree at SBU in 2012 and return to Brookhaven Lab.

“I reached out to Joseph to say that I was interested in coming back because it was the most impressive internship I’ve ever had,” Brutus said. He first returned to Brookhaven in 2011 under a co-op position, and transitioned to a full-time engineer position in 2012.

“I was very happy that he considered BNL after completing his master’s,” Tuozolo said. “When he came on board he hit the ground running and always tried to go fast.

At Brookhaven, Brutus is designing, manufacturing, testing and commissioning accelerator components for coherent electron cooling (CEC) and low energy RHIC electron cooling (LEREC) experiments, aimed at improving the performance of RHIC and EIC.

“The types of equipment used in a particle accelerator are complex,” Brutus said. “As a mechanical engineer working in such a facility, you become involved in all aspects. We help design electron sources, radiofrequency (RF) cavities, magnets, diagnostics devices, cryogenic systems, control systems and much more We do.

Brutus uses an array of tools including computer software that models accelerator components in three dimensions and performs engineering design analysis through electromagnetic, thermal and structural simulations.

“There are many technical challenges when working with superconducting materials operating at temperatures of 2 Kelvin (-456 degrees Fahrenheit),” he said.

Brutus is also responsible for overall planning, scheduling, and operational support for the experiments he performs as a project engineer, keeping his projects within budget, on-schedule, and meeting physicists’ expectations. .

“You can spend months doing meetings and designing projects on the computer,” he said. “A lot of times, we have many design iterations between what physicists want and what can actually be manufactured.”

“But when we eventually build, install and commission projects, it is very rewarding and exciting to see your design being used for scientific research,” he said.

paying it forward and reaping the rewards

Brutus also gets opportunities to build on his experiences. He guides SULI students and serves on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council for the Nuclear and Particle Physics Directorate (NPP) at Brookhaven Lab, where he helps develop initiatives to improve NPP’s culture .

In 2016, Brutus earned his Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. And, in 2018, he achieved his lifetime goal of becoming a Licensed New York State Professional Engineer (PE).

He was featured on the cover of Minority Engineer in 2019 and is a two-time recipient of the Brookhaven Lab Spotlight Award.

In 2021, Brutus was honored with one of Stony Brook University’s 40 Under Forty Awards – recognition of alumni who have distinguished themselves as leaders in their communities.

“It is a great honor to represent SBU, Brookhaven Science Associates and my family,” Brutus said. “It’s a reflection of my passion for supporting science and discovery, for helping others, and in the values ​​I believe in.”

Appreciating the opportunities given to him as a student and an engineer, he offers it to those who are just starting out:

“I advise him to always improve himself as a person, as a leader and as an ally,” he said. “Always challenge yourself and be prepared to make your mistakes as well as learn from others from different backgrounds and cultures in order to grow professionally.”

SULI programs and projects at RHIC and EIC are funded by the DOE Office of Science (WDTS, NP).

Written by Ian Guana

Brookhaven National Laboratory is supported by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The Office of Science is the largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit

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