Lasers take physicists back to school

This week saw the First International School on Laser Applications at Accelerators held in GANIL (France). Organised by the LA3NET project – of which CERN is a partner – the school was a singular opportunity for accelerator and laser physicists to meet and discuss the future of the merging areas.


As an EU-funded training network, LA3NET has brought together 27 partner institutes to train early stage researchers in the field of laser applications. Though the network kickedoff only a few months ago, it has already filled 15 of its 17 fellow positions, including three in CERN’s BE and EN Departments. The five-day International School on Laser Applications at Accelerators was the first big event organised by LA3NET, and united participants from both inside and outside the project.

“This was the first time a school had linked laser and accelerator physics at such a fundamental level,” says Carsten P. Welsch, a former CERN fellow who now coordinates the LA3NET project from the Cockcroft Institute (University of Liverpool). “Though lasers are widely used nowadays, their integration at accelerator facilities is still a rather new research area and there is a lot for our community to learn. Because of that, participants from every career stage took part: from doctoral students and post-docs to experienced researchers.”

The backgrounds of the participants were equally mixed: around half came from laser physics backgrounds, and were interested in learning more about facilities exploiting their technology; the other half came with extensive backgrounds in accelerator physics, hoping to learn more about the lasers they are now confronted with in their laboratories. “The school provided an opportunity to link these two areas, essentially showing that they are two sides of the same coin,” explains Carsten. “We hoped to show that, on a very basic physics level, whether you talk about laser or radio frequency cavities, there are many similarities.”

The school was also a chance for participants to learn about the state of the field internationally, not only in academia but also in industry. LA3NET’s industrial partners were given two full sessions of presentations – an exceptional amount for this type of school. The industrial partners highlighted the fundamental differences between how they carry out research and how it is done in academia.

LA³NET will be organising a three-day workshop at CERN next February dealing with laser-ion sources and photo injectors. “The idea is to bring together the fellows who are working in this field – typically only 3 or 4 – with invited research leaders in that area,” concludes Carsten. “The workshop will also be open to people outside the network. We will organise a large number of such workshops over the next few years. Watch this space!”

by Katarina Anthony