The NIU-Fermilab connection in accelerator science

Philippe Piot

Philippe Piot, professor of physics at Northern Illinois University and Fermilab staff scientist, wrote this column.

Northern Illinois University and Fermilab have enjoyed a strong relationship in accelerator science for a long time. Fermilab operates state-of-the-art accelerator facilities that provide valuable hands-on experience and research opportunities for students from NIU. The laboratory also has many world-expert accelerator scientists, engineers and technicians who share their savoir-faire on a daily basis and help educate students across a broad range of disciplines including beam physics, laser science, high-power radio-frequency to ultra-high vacuum techniques.

The accelerator science program at NIU was initiated a decade ago via joint appointments of scientists, who then work for both institutions. The symbiosis between the two institutions has led to the graduation of three Ph.D. students in the NIU accelerator science program based on research performed at Fermilab over the last three years.

The Advanced Superconducting Test Accelerator, currently under construction at Fermilab, will further this collaboration and foster new initiatives. NIU recently graduated the first student, Christopher Prokop, with research pertaining to ASTA. Three other NIU students are currently doing research at ASTA, investigating beam-driven wakefield acceleration, novel compact radiation sources and advanced phase-space manipulations.

Access to Fermilab’s facilities undoubtedly has elevated NIU’s profile and helps attract new students interested in accelerator science. It also has helped NIU attract extramural funding from the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense and industry.

NIU President Douglas Baker, who assumed his position last summer, already has visited Fermilab twice and was impressed by the opportunities available to our students and faculty. He recently said that he is considering adding an NIU faculty position in accelerator science during the next few years, as NIU intends to be a major academic partner in the Illinois Accelerator Research Center.

IARC Director Bob Kephart recently visited NIU to discuss potential opportunities for collaboration. One avenue currently being pursued is NIU’s involvement in moving the AZero photoinjector at Fermilab to the IARC building in support of the development of high-current electron sources and accelerator-based compact light sources.

The NIU-Fermilab connection creates benefits beyond the state of Illinois. It advances basic research, accelerator R&D, education and industry. NIU is glad to be a part of this partnership.

Northern Illinois University student Francois Lemery (right) talks with NIU President Douglas Baker (left) and Congressman Randy Hultgren. Photo: Reidar Hahn