Farewell, Mike Church

Vladimir Shiltsev

Vladimir Shiltsev, director of the Accelerator Physics Center, wrote this column.

The best legacy a scientist can hope to leave behind is based on fond memories, scientific papers and successful projects. The legacy of Mike Church, who served as the deputy head of the Accelerator Physics Center and retired a few weeks ago as the head of the ASTA Operations Department in the Accelerator Division, includes all of that.

I had the distinct pleasure to know Mike and work side-by-side with him for about a decade and a half. Mike was one of the builders of the Antiproton Source at Fermilab and for quite a while led the Antiproton Source Department. In the late 1990s he switched to the Tevatron Department, which he led through the demanding times of the last fixed-target run and the preparations for the startup of the Tevatron Collider Run II.

The Tevatron needed a great number of upgrades to be able to work at 10 percent higher energy, six times the number of bunches and many times higher total beam intensities and luminosities. The startup of Run II in the early 2000s was slow and difficult, and Mike was asked to take the position of the deputy head of the Beams Division (now the Accelerator Division) and was put in charge of Run II. It required great efforts of all the departments in the division and the laboratory as a whole to achieve stellar performance from the collider. The team effort paid off and the luminosity kept increasing.

In 2006, the laboratory began the process of preparing its shift toward a new era of post-Tevatron research. As a part of this strategy, the laboratory established the Accelerator Physics Center. I was appointed to lead the APC, and I was lucky to get Mike on board as my deputy head. He played a key role in setting up the new organization and making it fully functional. Mike’s attention focused on the development of the experimental advanced accelerator R&D program, first at the AZero photoinjector and then at our new, world-leading Advanced Superconducting Test Accelerator. As head of the ASTA Operations Department, which is part of the Accelerator Division, Mike and his team achieved a major milestone just a few days before his retirement: They produced the first electron beam with the ASTA RF gun on June 20.

Mike’s career at Fermilab is unique in that he made profound contributions to the accelerators of three different types of particles—antiprotons, protons and electrons. And what about his scientific paper trail? In my opinion, one of the most impressive seminal papers on the physics and technology of antiproton production and accumulation was written by Mike Church and John Marriner, published in the Annual Reviews of Nuclear and Particle Science.

Mike Church

I’d like to thank Mike for his great contributions to the development and successes of Fermilab’s accelerator complex and the great memories I have of working with him. I wish him all the best in his retirement.