Science at SLAC: 2003 Will Bring Progress in Many Areas
By Tom Mead
There’s a lot of science going on at SLAC, and 2003
promises to be a year of progress on many fronts, despite the budget
challenges we face. We sat down with Persis Drell, Research Director at
the Lab, to discuss some of what’s in store for the year ahead.
Drell expects to see a different – but equally important – kind of
progress compared with last year’s sin2b (sine 2 beta) measurement. "I
don’t expect the same kind of gold ring to emerge from this program in
2003," she said. "What’s much more important to me, from a scientific
point of view, is the incredible series of detailed, precise measurements
that will emerge from a very rich year of BABAR
NLCTA staff pictured with the test accelerator:
(left to right) Doug McCormick, Frederic LePimpec, Josef Frisch and
Tonee Smith (photo courtesy of SLAC Archives)
The Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology will
continue to make progress, as Roger Blandford and Steve Kahn are brought
on in the Director and Deputy Director roles (see Director’s Corner,
page 2). With these new appointments, the scientific directions for the
Institute will start to take shape.
"The new Director will define the Institute’s focus, and
the Institute will determine the future of particle astrophysics and
cosmology at Stanford University and SLAC," said Drell. "One day we will
be able to look back on 2003 and say that this is where and when the seeds
of a spectacular success were planted and began to flourish."
High on everyone’s list of exciting developments is the
Linear Collider (LC). Drell expects to see significant progress in 2003,
as the collective energies of scientists worldwide become more focused on
this initiative. "I hope that this year we will see more universities
engaging in essential LC research and development, and becoming part of
the collective international political and scientific will to build this
While Drell does not anticipate that a decision will be
made this year on where the LC might be located, she believes we will see
technical progress on SLAC’s designs for a linear collider.
Focus on Education
A big part of what SLAC is, according to Drell, and what
it offers to the world, is always going to be the young scientists. "The
brightness of our world-class research can sometimes overshadow the fact
that SLAC is an educational institution, that our people are our greatest
resource, and that the scientists we help train are among our highest
"The graduate students and post-docs in all areas who get
trained here and then go out to advance science around the world are very
high on the list of contributions of which we are most proud."
Among programs currently underway, Drell notes that
initiatives such as GLAST, the advanced accelerator work, and the smaller
‘desktop’ experiments such as the neutrino mass R&D work will continue to
GLAST, a gamma ray telescope that will be launched into
orbit in 2006, is making excellent technical progress. This year will be a
very important construction year for them.
"There are some fine advanced accelerator R&D experiments
probing the new technologies that may power the next generation of
accelerators," said Drell. "Two experiments in this exquisite series—laser
acceleration and plasma-wakefield acceleration—are exploring strategies
for achieving extraordinary particle acceleration gradients."
Among the ‘desktop’ experiments, Drell notes that SLAC
scientists working on the Enriched Xenon Observatory experiment believe
that if their research is successful they will have a new method for
measuring the Majorana mass of the neutrino down to 10 milli-electron
volts. "R&D will make headway in 2003 despite budgetary constraints that
have forced me to slow the effort and, therefore, the progress."
Certainly this year’s budget issues will have an impact on
the work done at the Lab, and this has led to some tough decisions. "In
these days of tight fiscal restraints I have had to make difficult choices
about the research program under my stewardship," she said. "I have had to
slow some detector R&D projects. In addition, the three approved
experiments (E159, E160, E161) that were to rely on a new photon beam line
have been stopped altogether. They are lovely physics, but they are not
our highest priority physics."
This year should provide a wealth of scientific results,
due to the hard work of the SLAC Community. "I am painting a picture of a
scientific program that will deliver a rich series of measurements and new
scientific results through a variety of experiments. Despite constraints
and cutbacks, the SLAC science program is robust and healthy. 2003 will
see energetic and evolutionary science getting done here. I’m looking
forward to it."