• Marcus posing with the CMS poster in Building 40. Photo: Michael Hoch

  • With CMS Physicist Michael Hoch, in the CMS Underground Service Cavern. Photo: Wolfgang von Rueden

  • With theorist John Ellis, a meeting Marcus described as “out of this world”. Photo: Claudia Marcelloni

It is well known that CERN is an open laboratory, welcoming visitors from around the world on a daily basis. Often these visits are organised by schools or colleges, or are simply part of a family vacation to the Geneva area. Many VIPs also visit, including heads of state, ministers, company and organisation heads etc. But one of the most unusual requests for a visit came recently from the “Make-A-Wish” charitable foundation. Formed more than 30 years ago in the USA, the Make-a-Wish foundation now extends to 48 countries on five continents. And it has one aim: to grant magical wishes to young people aged 3-17 fighting life-threatening illnesses.

Sixteen-year-old Marcus, from Goole (near Manchester, UK) had a rather unconventional wish: to visit CERN. With the help of Make-A-Wish Switzerland and a few enthusiastic people from CERN, Marcus's wish was granted — the 7000th such wish granted by the UK arm of the organization. Marcus has had a strong interest in physics for many years and, after he was diagnosed with a brain tumour in September 2010, his love of learning and passion for physics is what got him through his illness. His mother Penny says “it gave him something to focus on”.

Once in Geneva, Marcus and his family were greeted by Wolfgang von Rueden, recently retired Head of the CERN “Openlab” project and former IT Department Head. After a tour of the Globe and a visit to the CERN Control Centre (CCC) with accelerator physicist Django Manglunki, Marcus was whisked over to Point 5 for a special tour of the CMS UNgerground Service Cavern with Michael Hoch and Dave Barney, as well as a tour of the CMS Control Room. Once back on the main CERN site, Marcus was treated to a meeting with theorist John Ellis, something Marcus describes as “out of this world”. Finally there was just time to be shown around the Computer Centre before rounding off the day with a ride back to their hotel in Geneva in a classic Rolls Royce.

Our rather special VIP told us: “I had an unforgettable time and it was very interesting. I recently got my GCSE results from school — I got an A* in physics and 100% of the marks — and enroled at college yesterday to study physics, maths, computing and electronics. Hopefully I will join you one day on the quest to seek fundamental answers to this strange place in which we live."

Penny added: “If someone asked Marcus what has been the most memorable moment in his life so far, he'd say going to CERN. His wish will be something he'll always remember.”