Cowboy wisdom

Sergei Nagaitsev

Let’s be honest: There is no manual on how to run the Accelerator Division. Before I took my new job as the head of AD, I asked many people for guidance. The sagest advice came from outgoing head Roger Dixon: “Life is not about how fast you run or how high you climb, but how well you bounce.”

During his nearly 11-year tenure as AD head, Roger led the division through many bounces, and the division always came out riding high. For example, our Tevatron collider program ended in September 2011, and we didn’t know how fast we could switch gears. Six months later, Fermilab’s accelerator complex had already sent muons through the former antiproton source and delivered 350 kW of beam power to produce the most intense high-energy beam of neutrinos in the world.

The latest example is the startup of our accelerator complex this summer after a 16-month shutdown, during which we made significant changes to all of our accelerators. At the start of the shutdown, we faced a huge list of challenging tasks to be completed. The goal was to lay the groundwork for increasing the proton beam intensity that we deliver to maximize the scientific reach of our particle physics experiments. With the support from other divisions, centers and sections, our personnel performed an outstanding job and got the work done. Then the startup demonstrated how high we can bounce — the key ingredient to success in our complex environment. In August, acceleration of protons to 120 GeV succeeded at the first attempt — a real accomplishment after all of the upgrades that were made — and in September the Main Injector was already delivering 250 kW of proton beam power.

We still have lots of work to do. The goal is to reach 550 kW by the end of fiscal year 2014 and 700 kW in the next couple of years.

I tip my hat to Roger for his excellent judgment and for his leadership. Roger has agreed to stay on as my advisor as he starts to pursue his research interests. For those who are trying to entice Roger to work on their projects, my advice is to remember the Old West saying: “The best way to get a cowboy to do something is to suggest he is too old for it.”

Sergei Nagaitsev is the head of the Accelerator Division.

From left: Accelerator Division Deputy Head Paul Czarapata, outgoing AD Head Roger Dixon and new AD Head Sergei Nagaitsev are not short on cowboy spirit. Photo: Elliott McCrory, AD