CERN Accelerating science

Accelerator Education goes further
by Sabrina El Yacoubi (CERN) & Graeme Burt (University of Lancaster/The Cockcroft Institute) 

Participants at accelerator workshop (Image: QUASAR Group) 

“Knowledge belongs to mankind, not to scientists,” said Fabiola Giannotti, CERN Director General at the 2017 World Economic Forum. Nowadays the scientific community better understands the need for public engagement. Demonstrating their work to the public through education, outreach, policy and many other activities is one of their main responsibilities alongside their scientific duties.

Similarly to many other institutes and universities, CERN and the Cockcroft Institute have strengthened their education and outreach activities by providing two new educational programs for different audiences.

The Cockcroft Institute is launching an exciting new education program of lectures on accelerator science and technology, to be delivered via webcast and video archives. This will provide a new free resource for the worldwide accelerator community, as a supplement to existing accelerators schools.

The program provides both a general introduction to the subject for non-technical audiences in addition to education on more advanced topics serving as a quick refresher for experienced staff were a traditional accelerator school may not be available. All course videos and slides are free to view, and the usage is strongly encouraged to anyone in our community. The resource shall also act as an inspiration for other institutions to consider similar training initiatives.

The Cockcroft Institute is a UK-based collaboration between Daresbury Laboratory and several UK universities (Lancaster, Liverpool, Manchester and Strathclyde) to provide training for the next generation of accelerator scientists and engineers required to develop and optimise future accelerator facilities and light sources. The institute has been very successful in its efforts by initiating a large number of international training networks, such as DITANET, oPAC, OMA and AVA, as well as through the provision of an in-house lecture series for the institute’s postgraduate students. The latter includes a comprehensive set of training courses which provides all PhD students at the institute with a broad education in accelerator science outside of their own specific discipline. An online provision was also added to accommodate the large numbers of students based at overseas laboratories for at least part of their PhD work.

The lectures are primarily delivered by academic staff and accelerator experts from the stakeholder universities and the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). Some external lecturers also complement the program where the in-house experts did not have the right expertise. This online resource now also benefits the wider accelerator community and thus closes an existing training gap identified by a number of studies, such as the EU-funded TIARA project. More information and all course material can be found on the Cockroft Institute’s website, and you can also follow the institute on Facebook and Twitter to receive the latest news about new lectures and short courses.

In parallel, CERN is trying to reach the whole population of the organization and beyond with a large spectrum of courses and training. The CERN Accelerator School, established in 1983, holds trainings every year at one of the CERN member states on particle accelerators and colliders with the aim of transmitting and sharing knowledge.  Complementary to this school, a yearly lecture series on “Introduction to Particle Accelerators” (AXEL) is held for technicians who are operating accelerators and whose work is closely linked to them. The lectures are also open to technicians, engineers, and physicists interested in this.

However, CERN has gone further with education and outreach by hosting a new lecture titled “Accelerators explained for everyone – without Maths”. At the origin of this lecture, Rende Steerenberg, Head of the Operations Group within the Beam Department, understood the need of setting up a lecture open to everyone without any prior knowledge of accelerators.

The objective is to widen the audience and to give a general overview of the CERN accelerator complex. It is open to everybody willing to gain a basic knowledge on how to share the beam between the LHC and all the other experiments, the LHC cycle, injection and extraction of particles, guiding particle around an accelerator, accelerating particles, Energy, basic beam diagnostic tools and performance limitations. Without diving into mathematical formulas and concepts, Rende Steerenberg reaches the public by choosing images, comparisons and equivalent to our daily lives to increase public understanding of basic scientific facts and concepts. 

Example slide featuring a diagram of the CERN acceleration complex (Credit: CERN)

Five lectures have been given so far, and few others are planned for 2017. They are open to all personnel at CERN and will be given in French and English. More information here.

In the current climate, education and training are crucial aspects of most research and development projects to help ensure the future generations of scientists are well prepared. Indeed, the TIARA project conducted a series of surveys and produced a document containing suggestions for how to improve accelerator education and training based on their results. These suggestions included actions such as the development of training lectures or the provision of scholarships and accelerator schools.

In a similar vein, the ARIES project, due to begin in May 2017, includes a task dedicated to outreach, education and training. ARIES will develop an e-learning course aimed at undergraduate students to deliver an introduction to accelerator science, engineering and technology.