Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Attend a virtual lasers and accelerators symposium

LA3NET Fellow (see below for silly acronym) Jakob Cramer checking
a magnetic lens for particle beams
Accelerators like the Diamond Light Source and high power laser facilities are at the glamorous end of physics, so what better way to get a taster for some of the amazing career opportunities for scientists and engineers than a symposium for sixth formers exploring this remarkable world?

Unfortunately the symposium at the Liverpool Convention Centre this Friday is sold out, but the good news is that you (or students you teach) can still 'attend' in a virtual way via webcast. That will be available here, and they've even got Brian Cox, so who could resist?

If you'd like some more details, here is the inevitable press release:

FROM PIECING THE COSMIC JIGSAW TO IMAGING PROTEINS
Lasers and Accelerators symposium set to inspire next generation of accelerator scientists and engineers says Cockcroft Director

“You could be working at the forefront of human knowledge in a science that is unlocking the mysteries of the Universe and that has applications in healthcare, materials, and drug development among others;” that is the message from the Cockcroft Institute to sixth formers attending the ‘Lasers and Accelerators for Science and Society’ symposium, 26th June 2015.  

There is a shortage of engineers and scientists with skills in this exciting area, and industry is keen that young people consider it as a career.

Professor Carsten Welsch, Associate Director of the Cockcroft Institute in Daresbury, an internationally renowned centre for accelerator science and technology, says that the symposium aims to inspire people with the possibilities of this rapidly evolving science.

He says: “Accelerator science is a young discipline and the people pushing back the frontiers of knowledge are also often only in their twenties. There are real opportunities not only to discover something new but also to see its application in healthcare or industry within a relatively short time-frame.”

With the popular appeal of recent films such as “The Imitation Game” and “The Theory of Everything” generating interest in scientists and their work, Prof Welsch is hoping that meeting real scientists involved in blue-sky and applied research will lift the ambitions of students.

“We have chosen speakers such as Professor Brian Cox who are good at making science accessible and that are at the forefront of their fields.  They also include Professor Katia Parodi who has pioneered image-guided radiotherapy for targeting cancer tumours and Dr Ralph AƟmann who is working on a new generation of compact particle accelerators that will be economically viable in new markets.”

Prof Welsch has been leading three pan-European programmes, which are creating fellows with vital skills in particle acceleration, beam technologies and laser science.  Along with their research, the fellows have also enjoyed training in project management, networking and presenting to ensure they are highly employable.

The fellows have each been set challenges by project partners – drawn from industry and research – and the symposium marks the completion of these endeavours.  

Fellows from two of the programmes – oPAC (optimization of particle accelerators), and LA3NET (lasers for applications at accelerator facilities) – will get an opportunity to present their results in a poster session. 

oPAC fellow Manuel Cargnelutti, graduated in 2012 and has a masters in Electrical Engineering. He was initially considering software programming when he saw details of the scheme; “The field of particle accelerators was totally new for me, and the final application is fascinating,” he says. 

“The oPAC programme offers a very unique combination of the industry and science worlds, aiming to improve both technical and secondary skills. This was just what I wanted.”

Posters will include work from the following projects:

Femtosecond x-ray imaging – x-ray crystallography has been widely used to improve our knowledge of the structure and function of many biological molecules including vitamins, proteins and DNA itself, but the technique is limited to materials that can create a crystalline form. Also the samples are static, so it cannot be used to understand the motion of proteins. 

These problems can be overcome using ‘free-electron lasers’ but these are very large, sophisticated facilities, of which there are only a few in the world. 

LA3NET fellow Andreas Dopp is developing a system that generates intense pulses of x-rays that last only a few femtoseconds (10-15 or one millionth of a billionth, of a second) and would be capable of imaging a protein unfolding in real time which would advance our knowledge of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and cancer.

In future this work will help to produce an alternative source of x-rays, with similar properties to those from free-electron lasers, but potentially smaller and cheaper.

A magnetic lens that focuses high-energy particle beams - a particle beam needs to be sharp in order to be effective. LA3NET fellow Jakob Kramer is designing, building and testing a magnetic lens that works with a new type of accelerator, which uses high-power lasers to accelerate a particle beam. This magnetic lens would increase the precision and power of the beam within a more compact accelerator. 

Unravelling secrets of the cosmic jigsaw – we still do not know what 85% of the matter in the universe consists of.  To try and understand this cosmic jigsaw scientists have been working on a ‘standard model of particle physics’ which describes all the fundamental particles we know and their interactions. 

The gigantic Large Hadron Collider was built in order to do experiments that tested the model but now a more advanced accelerator is required to go even further and two oPAC fellows Emilia Cruz Alaniz and Alessandra Valloni are working on this; the design of a new electron-proton collider. 

For those not able to attend the symposium there will be an opportunity to follow the talks via webcast: www.cockcroft.ac.uk/symposium-on-lasers-accelerators-for-science-and-society

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