IARC to begin new era

Tim Meyer

This column is bittersweet. On the occasion of Bob Kephart’s retirement, we announce a new leader for Illinois Accelerator Research Center (IARC) as the program graduates to a new era.

Bob has announced his retirement effective Jan. 4, 2018. For the first few months, you might have to go to Belize to find him (bonus is avoiding the Chicagoland winter). However, I am pleased to announce that Cherri Schmidt will step into the role of IARC director for the coming year effective Jan. 1, 2018.

You may be familiar with IARC: a concept invented by Bob, the idea that Fermilab’s accelerator technologies have evolved far beyond what is available to commercial industry and that a gateway center would help stimulate partnership and technology transfer. It took multiple years to get traction within the lab and then with the State of Illinois and the Department of Energy, but Bob was patient and persistent. And then it happened. IARC was born around 2010, funded with new money from the state and repurposed facilities and refurbishment funds from DOE. The next challenge was to define a direction and a program that would engage the private sector and new parts of the public sector. It took multiple years, but again, Bob triumphed. IARC celebrated a multimillion-dollar investment in its compact, low-energy, high-power, mobile SRF electron technology platform earlier this year from the Engineering Research and Development Center of the Army Corps of Engineers. That’s just one capstone to a series of smaller, strategic engagements at which Bob and his team have succeeded.

So hats off to Bob and the team he assembled over the past five years. IARC is up and running!

While this column is not a hagiography to Bob, it is about IARC as one of his final accomplishments in the name of Fermilab, and it is about the future of that endeavor.

IARC will continue and it must continue. It is growing and evolving. Its work is moving from almost entirely “paper” (design studies, proposal writing) to be truly in the lab and on the floor (sample testing, engineering prototypes, parameter optimization, component production and systems integration). Maintaining the momentum and keeping the pace will be no easy task, especially without Bob’s daily wisdom and warm-hearted but bullish doggedness.

We do have such a leader and manager on staff to pick up the reins in the person of Cherri Schmidt. Cherri has served as an unofficial member of the IARC team for the past four years, helping to shape the business model for IARC and providing valuable advice and assistance to Bob and his team as IARC has branched out into new directions. Cherri’s diverse background in engineering, manufacturing, business development and entrepreneurship will complement the strong technical skills of the IARC team.

The appointment is interim as we fully expect to need to add new talent at the helm by 2019. Cherri will divide her time between the Office of Partnerships and Technology Transfer and IARC. This dual-hatting is a challenge, and I have confidence that Cherri will be successful.

So, thank you, Bob, for believing in IARC and bringing it to Fermilab. We will not only carry the torch but we shall ensure it burns even more brightly!

Tim Meyer is Fermilab’s chief operating officer.