CERN Accelerating science

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CERN Accelerating science

International School on Precision Studies for the AVA Network

Solving the mystery of the imbalance between matter and antimatter in the universe has been one of the greatest challenges in physics. Experiments using low energy antimatter give insight into some of the most fundamental questions in science. They allow probing symmetries and interactions in unprecedented detail. In order to perform these experiments, highly sophisticated facilities such as CERN’s antiproton decelerator rings AD and ELENA are required.

The Accelerators Validating Antimatter physics (AVA) project enables an interdisciplinary and cross-sector program on antimatter research. This project is an Innovative Training Network within the H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme. The foundation of the AVA Network is the training and continued development of AVA Fellows who contribute to fundamental questions around antimatter.

The latest training, a week-long School on Precision Studies, was organised to take place in Prague (Czech Republic) at the end of March 2020. However, due to the travel restrictions in place as a result of the coronavirus pandemic it was no longer possible to hold this advanced school as planned. To keep a significant part of the school content, it was decided to run the meeting as an online event.

The virtual School was joined by more than 50 participants and saw lectures and topical talks given by world-leading experts. They presented the latest results in theoretical and experimental antimatter studies along with wider research in accelerator science and particle physics. The event started with a recap of the basics of beam handling and cooling techniques, instrumentation and particle trapping on the first day. This was complemented with an in-depth overview of the experimental programme at the Antiproton Decelerator (AD) facility at CERN where currently all of the low energy antimatter physics research is carried out. Presentations highlighted the state-of-the-art and the challenges associated with limited intensities, machine access and required precision.

The online school was joined by more than 50 participants. (Image credit: University of Liverpool)

The School continued by putting the AVA research programme into a wider context. This included ‘classic’ particle physics experiments, interferometry and quantum technologies. These talks helped understand the wider context in which precision studies are placed. Slides from all presentations, poster contributions and recordings from the talks can be viewed via the events indico page.

In the current landscape, connecting people online has become increasingly the norm. It allows continuity of meetings and events albeit in a different format. This presents an opportunity to overcome some of the challenges associated with remote working. The online format of this school successfully allowed interactive discussions benefiting from Zoom’s chat functionality. Whilst not a full replacement for the original school, the online event allowed speakers and participants to connect and share information in a way that was not done before within the AVA Network.

Professor Carsten P. Welsch, AVA Coordinator and Head of the Physics Department at the University of Liverpool (UK), said: “The presentations highlighted the current state-of-the-art in precision studies using low energy antimatter beams. They also clearly showed the numerous challenges from limited beam intensities, machine access and the required precision. The AVA research has helped significantly improve a number of key technologies for these studies and also paved the way for entirely new experiments. Whilst the School could not take the planned format on this occasion, it still offered an excellent opportunity for discussions and knowledge exchange.”

The invaluable help of FOTON and the Institute of Physics of the Czech Academy of Sciences for helping to organise the school is acknowledged.

Looking forward, the AVA Network will be co-organising the International Conference on Exotic Atoms and Related Topics, the 7th edition of the EXA conference series, which will take place in Vienna (Austria) next year. Latest news and information about upcoming events can be found on the AVA webpage.

The AVA project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 721559.

Martin Bellwood (University of Liverpool)
AVA – Training (anti)matters
6 Mar 2018

AVA – Training (anti)matters

Early stage AVA researchers benefit from established and bespoke training events

Alexandra Welsch, Samantha Colosimo, Javier Resta López (University of Liverpool)
Accelerating Learning
8 Oct 2018

Accelerating Learning

Summer events held at CERN boost knowledge and collaboration. The events were coordinated by the QUASAR Group.

Panagiotis Charitos
Austrian synchrotron debuts carbon-ion cancer treatment
20 Oct 2019

Austrian synchrotron debuts carbon-ion cancer treatment

MedAustron, an advanced hadron-therapy centre in Austria, becomes one of six centres worldwide to treat tumours with carbon ions.

Apply now to the Joint Universities Accelerator School

Preparing the designers, builders and operators of tomorrow's particle accelerators

The Joint Universities Accelerator School (JUAS) will take place from 13 January to 19 March 2020 in Archamps, France. JUAS offers Master, PhD students and young professionals two intensive 5-week courses delivered by a faculty comprising some 50 experts from academia, research facilities and industries active in the field. 

The curriculum is overseen by an international Advisory Board which includes JUAS’s 16 participating universities. Both courses are concluded by exams so that the latter may attribute ECTS and/or doctoral credits to their participating students. "Our students regularly come from more than 20 countries, exemplifying the international reputation and attractiveness of JUAS", says Philippe Lebrun, JUAS Director. 

JUAS proposes an innovative pedagogical approach, with a unique mix of lectures, tutorials, seminars, group workshops, practical sessions and laboratory visits, including CERN, ESRF Grenoble, Paul Scherrer Institut, Geneva University Hospital and Bergoz Instrumentation. 

The 2020 JUAS School offers two courses:

► Course 1: The Science of Particle Accelerators 

13 Jan - 14 Feb 2020

Deadline to apply: 27 Oct 2019

► Course 2: The Technology & Applications of Particle Accelerators

17 Feb - 19 Mar 2020

Deadline to apply: 24 Nov 2019

Online applications:


Yiota Foka (CERN)
Master Class captivates the next generation of scientists
11 Jul 2019

Master Class captivates the next generation of scientists

CERN, DKFZ Heidelberg and GSI Darmstadt engage the next generation of scientists through a hands-on experience on particle therapy.

Steinar Stapnes (CERN)
Updates to the CLIC performance studies
12 Dec 2019

Updates to the CLIC performance studies

The CLIC study collaboration proposes new ways of increasing the luminosity performance at 380 GeV at modest additional cost and power consumption. These updates are summarized in a recent CLIC note.

Sabrina El yacoubi
How to access free of charge state-of-the-art accelerator testing facilities across Europe?

Apply now to the Joint Universities Accelerator School

A. Latina, G. D’Auria and R. Rochow (CERN)
Improving access to FEL facilities through the CompactLight project
12 Jul 2019

Improving access to FEL facilities through the CompactLight project

One of technologies used by CompactLight is the high-gradient normal conductive RF acceleration in the X-band, developed at CERN within the context of the CLIC study.

Rama Calaga (CERN)
World’s first crabbing of a proton beam
26 Jun 2018

World’s first crabbing of a proton beam

The first test of the HL-LHC crab cavities to rotate a beam of protons was performed last month at CERN.

Daniela Antonio (CERN)
A reverse hackathon with CERN
8 Oct 2018

A reverse hackathon with CERN

What if we selected a few CERN Technologies and put them in the hands of professionals that help create highly successful start-ups?

Tactile Collider

Tactile Collider is currently touring the UK, bringing the science of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and Higgs boson to visually impaired (VI) school children. Created by scientists from the Cockcroft Institute (Daresbury, UK), the event features a life size tactile particle accelerator model, immersive audio environments and 3D printed particle models, all with the aim of making exciting science accessible to this underrepresented audience.

From particles that are one hundred billion times smaller than a human hair’s width to galaxies consisting of hundreds of billions of stars, physicists are used to understanding things that are beyond the limits of human senses. Carefully designed experiments, such as the LHC, produce masses of data about the unseen that we can turn into information about our universe. This new information fuels a next generation of experiments, taking our understanding deeper and further. At each stage we update the illustrations and texts that make scientific discoveries at smallest and largest scales accessible to the human mind.

If you have a visual impairment, then not being able to see these illustrations is an immense barrier to understanding the science.

In the early days of Tactile Collider, project leaders Dr. Rob Appleby (University of Manchester), Dr. Chris Edmonds (University of Liverpool) and Dr. Marieke Navin (SHIFT digital) visited St Vincent’s School for the blind (Liverpool), where they observed lessons in science labs that had much in common with arts and crafts rooms. Teachers seemed to be engaged in a continuous process of preparing materials that make topics such as the solar system and planetary motion accessible to pupils with a wide spectrum of visual impairments.

Tactile maps, special diagrams with raised features that can be explored by hand, are often used to convey concepts, but these do not simply replace illustrations. Dr. Chris Edmonds said “vision allows us to take in high resolution pictures very quickly. If you can’t see, building up the same information using touch can be time consuming”, for this reason VI people can progress through teaching materials at a slower rate than sighted peers. The Tactile Collider team aimed to create an innovative set of educational resources, linking cutting edge physics research to curriculum and exploring new methods of communicating science with VI audiences.

Dr. Rob Appleby said: “We wanted to ensure we were creating an experience that was right for our audience, and to do that it was really critical for us to talk to our audience.” The team spent time with representatives of the VI community at museums, in schools and at Daresbury laboratory. They met people whose preferred approach would build up a mental picture from tactile maps and models by rapidly scanning their hands over them, those who enjoyed the authenticity of real objects and others who would choose audio over tactile resources. These experiences were used to drive the development process, leading to activities that allow the Tactile Collider audience to explore physics concepts through different mediums.

In January 2018, pupils from Bolton were amongst the first to experience a Tactile Collider event. The 90 minutes begin as pupils are introduced to CASSIE (Conceptual Accelerator Setup Supporting Inclusive Education), a life size model of a particle accelerator. Designed to be light weight and transportable, the steel plated CASSIE is cold and solid to the touch, bringing some of the authenticity of visiting a real particle accelerator.

Surrounding the model accelerator are four activity stations, where students explore particle physics, magnetic fields, particle acceleration and the detection of the Higgs boson. The activities feature 3D printed objects that can be pieced together to build particle accelerator components, tactile maps that guide you through accelerator physics concepts and immersive audio experiences that take you inside the LHC. At the heart of each station is a Cockcroft Institute PhD student, who brings the activities together, informing the pupils about research and helping to develop young people’s attitudes towards science and scientists.

Brightly coloured 3D printed magnet jigsaws provide an engaging way to explore the properties of magnetic fields. Tactile bumps and indentations allow people to identify the North and South poles through touch. (Image credit: Tactile Collider)

The people within the Tactile Collider team have been instrumental to the success of the project, which has recently won two awards at the University of Manchester’s Better World Showcase. Students from the Cockcroft Institute have contributed significant amounts of time to both producing and delivering Tactile Collider. Under the expert guidance of external consultants, including Kirin Saeed (specialist in audio and video description), team members have developed their ability to open communication with audiences who are underrepresented within the physics community. Dr. Marieke Navin said: “The staff and students working with us are the lecturers of tomorrow, by training these scientists we are tackling the problem of underrepresented audiences”.

Tactile Collider will resume its 2018 UK tour with events in Hereford (13th & 14th March), Bradford (19th April), Glasgow (13th June) and Edinburgh (14th June). Teachers visiting these events will also be able to participate in continuing professional development (CPD) sessions, which aim to support teachers in using Tactile Collider resources and to raise awareness of methods of science teaching that are inclusive of VI audiences. Robyn Watson, a teacher with Bolton Visual Impairment Team, contributed to the development of sessions and is coordinating school enrolment to events, she commented “the needs of students with VI are often an afterthought, however a few thoughtful tweaks and alterations can enable a student to get to grips with complex theories. This boosts confidence, aspirations and makes students feel like valued members of a class.

Beyond the class room, Tactile Collider will also be found alongside the Cockcroft Institutes existing public engagement activities at summer festivals, including bluedot (20th – 22nd July 2018).

The Tactile Collider project is funded by STFC.

Header image: School pupils at a Tactile Collider event explore the CASSIE particle accelerator. The steel plated model is designed to inspire curiosity. (Image credit: Tactile Collider)

Panos Charitos (CERN)
ISOLDE's new solenoid spectrometer
21 Mar 2019

ISOLDE's new solenoid spectrometer

Novel experiments to study the evolution of nuclear structure, exotic nuclear shapes and the formation of elements made possible with ISOLDE's new solenoid spectrometer.

Mohammed Shahzad (University of Strathclyde)
Laser-wakefield accelerators for High-energy coherent Terahertz radiation
26 Jun 2018

Laser-wakefield accelerators for High-energy coherent Terahertz radiation

Paper just published in New Journal of Physics describes a promising pathway to more efficient radiation sources

Maurizio Vretenar (CERN)
Accelerator-Industry Co-Innovation Workshop
15 Mar 2018

Accelerator-Industry Co-Innovation Workshop

Tools and strategies to enhance industry-academia cooperation in the particle accelerator community

25th edition of Joint Universities Accelerator School

 Invented at the turn of the 20th century, at the same time as modern physics was reinventing the concept of the particle, particle accelerators developed as the workhorses of nuclear and particle physics to become the largest scientific instruments ever built by man. Today, they also constitute essential tools for the study of condensed matter and biomolecules, and find numerous societal applications in medical diagnostics and treatment, the polymer and electronic component industries, public security and food and health product safety.

The science and the technology of accelerators are specific domains of physics and engineering in their own right. They must be taught as such, along with their latest developments, to the future designers, builders and operators of these strange machines.  

This is precisely what the Joint Universities Accelerator School (JUAS) has been doing each year since 1994 at ESI-Archamps.  Two specialised 5-week courses are proposed to Master and Doctoral students, as well as young professionals from industry or research centres. The courses are delivered by a faculty comprising some 50 experts from academia, research facilities and industries active in the field. The curriculum is overseen by the Advisory Board in which JUAS’ 16 partner universities are represented. Both courses are concluded by exams enabling partner universities to attribute ECTS and/or doctoral credits to their participating students.  

In all, more than 1000 students have been trained at JUAS since its creation.

Frédérick Bordry, CERN Director of Accelerators and Technology celebrating the 25th edition of JUAS at ESI in February  (Image: ESI-Archamps)

JUAS employs an innovative pedagogical approach, with a unique mix of lectures, tutorials, seminars, group workshops, laboratory visits and practical sessions. The latter include for some students the opportunity to take part in machine development sessions on real accelerators in operation – this year on the synchrotrons of ESRF in Grenoble and on the linear accelerator CLEAR at CERN.  Students also spend two days at the Paul Scherrer Institut near Zürich and a full day at Bergoz Instrumentation. In the words of Jacinta Yap, a PhD student at the University of Liverpool who attended JUAS 2017, “JUAS has been a really great opportunity to learn all about accelerators in a condensed amount of time. I think the biggest take-away for me is that I’m at the beginning of my PhD and so it’s really great to learn about these fundamentals so early on.”

Practical sessions at CERN (Image: ESI-Archamps)

Also to be mentioned is the involvement of JUAS in the production of a MOOC on accelerators, in the framework of the “Training, Communication and Outreach” work package of the H2020 project ARIES.

JUAS is synonymous with diversity: a stimulating mix of physicists and engineers, students and more experienced scientists coming from some 20 countries in Europe, Asia and America. It is worth noting that one third of the 2018 students in Course 1 are female. Such diversity creates exciting opportunities for international and intercultural exchange, and prepares the students for flexible career paths in an increasingly globalised world.

The success of JUAS is in great part due to its intrinsic voluntary nature. This is apparent in the way academic institutions, laboratories and industrial companies allow their staff to teach at JUAS, grant access to their premises and equipment and provide financial support. Likewise the personal commitment of all those involved in running the School. It is only through this voluntary action that we can maintain high standards of teaching while keeping fees to a minimum. In this respect, the true value of JUAS greatly exceeds its financial budget. Our heartfelt thanks to all our partners.

Philippe Lebrun, JUAS Director celebrating the 25th edition of the school with Hermann Schmickler, Director of the CERN Accelerator School and Louis Rinolfi, former JUAS Director (Image: ESI-Archamp)

Long live JUAS … for at least the next 25 years!

Header imageStudents and faculty from JUAS 2018’s second module on the technology and applications of particle accelerators at ESI-Archamps (France) (Image: ESI-Archamps)

Alexandra Welsch (University of Liverpool)
Physics of Star Wars: Science or Fiction?
7 Dec 2017

Physics of Star Wars: Science or Fiction?

Accelerator experts bring the Force to life.

Bernhard Holzer (CERN)
Specialized School on Novel Accelerators for Young Scientists
25 Mar 2020

Specialized School on Novel Accelerators for Young Scientists

The Spring 2019 edition of the CERN Accelerator School took place in Tecnico Lisboa and focused on High-Gradient Wakefield Acceleration.

Nadia Pastrone, Daniel Schulte (Muon Collider Group)
Towards a strategic plan for future muon colliders
10 Dec 2019

Towards a strategic plan for future muon colliders

In the context of the European Strategy Update on Particle Physics, a working group was been appointed in 2017 by the CERN Directorate to review the status of muon collider activities.

AVA – Training (anti)matters

Antimatter experiments are at the cutting edge of science; however, they are very difficult to undertake as antimatter is produced at extremely high energies. The ELENA decelerator at CERN is designed to overcome these problems, catching and slowing antiprotons to energies as low as 0.1 MeV. To fully exploit this novel accelerator, it will be important to train a new researcher generation in experimental design and optimization, advanced beam diagnostics and novel low energy antimatter experiments. AVA is an Innovative Training Network within the H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions created for that purpose. Five universities, eight national and international research centres and thirteen industrial partners are collaborating in this interdisciplinary program.

At the very heart of the AVA network is a series of established and bespoke training events running throughout the project lifespan. From 8th – 12th January 2018, the AVA Fellows attended a Researcher Skills School at the University of Liverpool. They were joined by a student cohort from LIV.DAT, an STFC-funded centre for doctoral training that focusses on challenges arising in Big Data Science. Such a collegiate approach has two distinct advantages: i) the advantages of scale – the costs of training can be shared to bring otherwise unaffordable opportunities to more people, and ii) it brings together trainees from a variety of disciplines to develop personal networks and start interdisciplinary collaborations.

Training at Liverpool – the original ‘red-brick’ University (Image credit: QUASAR Group).

The Researcher Skills School at Liverpool focused on developing skills essential for early stage researchers and included training in project management, peer review and intellectual property rights. A workshop on presentation skills held at The Cockcroft Institute included video recording presentations with feedback from both Fellows and trainers.

Highlights of the week at the University of Liverpool and the Cockcroft Institute (Image credit: QUASAR Group).

Professor Carsten Welsch, who leads both projects, commented, “Liverpool University has an outstanding track record in delivering bespoke postgraduate training courses. This Skills School follows a programme developed through previous training networks and was commended as EU success story by the European Commission as part of past project reviews.

The following week the AVA Fellows attended a bespoke Media Training at MediaCityUK, one of the UK’s premier creative hubs. Throughout their career, successful researchers will need to use professional media techniques to promote and advertise their research. This programme offered them the opportunity to develop these skills by producing their very own project video.

The week began with an overview of the creative process by hosts Carbon Digital before preproduction started. Storyboards were created and professional voice-over artists recorded scripts. The fellows learned about camera techniques and green screen filming and everyone had the opportunity to film and be filmed before the fellows decided amongst themselves who should star in the final cut. They had to consider how to communicate the scientific aims of the AVA project best to a broad and international audience. The postproduction process can be as intense and creative as preproduction and production combined. It offers dynamic opportunities to change the storyboard, soundscape and visuals. The Fellows actively engaged in postproduction to explain how antimatter is created at CERN, and how ELENA will help open up entirely new research opportunities.

Training with host Carbon Digital at MediaCityUK (Image credit: QUASAR Group).

Sue McHugh from Carbon Digital said, “It has been inspiring to see researchers from across the world come together to create such a high quality final film. This is an example of successful industry-academia collaboration which can only help improve the overall employment prospects of the researchers.

The AVA project film can be seen here.

After such an intense training fortnight, the AVA Fellows are now concentrating on their research until summer, when they will attend a week-long International School on Low Energy Antimatter Physics. This will be held between 25th - 29th June at CERN. and will be followed by hands-on training days on Detectors and Beam Diagnostics offered by Stahl Electronics and Bergoz Instrumentation, respectively.

The Summer School, open to all interested researchers, will address challenges in antimatter facility design and optimization, beyond state of the art beam diagnostics and advanced detectors, as well as novel antimatter experiments. In addition to lectures by research leaders, there will be study groups, a poster session and a dedicated industry session. There will also be opportunities for discussion and networking at evening events and tours of CERN’s unique accelerator facilities. 

Frederick Savary (CERN)
Full length prototype of an 11T dipole magnet
27 Jun 2018

Full length prototype of an 11T dipole magnet

The construction of the 5.5-m long 11T dipole prototype was completed in May this year after several years of intense work.

Panos Charitos, Frank Zimmermann
Unfolding the full potential of a future circular lepton collider
9 Dec 2019

Unfolding the full potential of a future circular lepton collider

A recently proposed acceleration scheme could further increase the performance of a technology-ready circular lepton collider and boost the exploratory potential of the FCC integrated programme.

Ch. Bracco, D. Carbajo Perez and A. Perillo Marcone
Ensuring safer operation at higher luminosities
12 Mar 2018

Ensuring safer operation at higher luminosities

The higher bunch intensities and smaller beam emittances expected in HL-LHC call for a novel design of the Target Dump Injection (TDI)