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SLAC Welcomes New Director of the Accelerator Directorate

(Photo - Norbert Holtkamp)
Director of the Accelerator Directorate, Norbert Holtkamp. (Photo by Brad Plummer.)

Today SLAC welcomes Norbert Holtkamp, new associate laboratory director, back to the U.S. and back to accelerator science after a four-year foray into fusion. As principal deputy director general of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, or ITER—an experimental fusion reactor under construction at Cadarache, France—Holtkamp was responsible for the technical management of one of the largest science projects in the world. Now, as incoming head of SLAC's Accelerator Directorate, he's returning to his roots.

"Accelerators, accelerator technology, high energy physics, photon science, accelerators as tools for science, direct applications—especially in high energy physics—it's my research area," Holtkamp said. "It interests me. I've contributed to it all my life and I'd like to contribute more."

Holtkamp's contributions to accelerator physics began with graduate work at BESSY, the Berlin synchrotron site, even before he received his Ph.D. in Physics from Darmstadt Technical University in 1990. Following this Holtkamp spent time at DESY, the largest German research center for particle physics, where he ultimately led the linear accelerator department; Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, where he was a senior staff member; and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where he led a team of five national laboratories in the construction of the accelerator for the Spallation Neutron Source. Holtkamp even squeezed in a four-month stay at SLAC during the early 1990s, but said he's returned to a very different place.

"SLAC is very interesting right now because it's actually in a transitional phase," Holtkamp explained. "The SLAC I knew 20 years ago is not the SLAC today. It's different—different people, different priorities, different goals for the future."

One of Holtkamp's goals for his future at SLAC is to contribute to efforts to further optimize the linear accelerator for the Linac Coherent Light Source.

"The LCLS is such a new and unique tool that something new and unique must come out of it," he said. "To help make it continue to work well and to provide this tool for the world-wide community is actually very exciting. It's a tremendous scientific contribution. From my point of view as an accelerator physicist that's probably as important as the science side."

"Norbert is not only known by a lot of us here at SLAC," said Robert Hettel, who has been acting director of the Accelerator Directorate, " but he is also known in the Department of Energy, in both the High Energy Physics and Basic Energy Science offices, and at most accelerator labs around the world. He will be a great spokesperson for the accelerator R&D and operation programs at SLAC and will bring a lot of management expertise to the lab."

Holtkamp noted that the first steps toward his goal have been made much easier by the work of Hettel. "He really kept the steam under it and kept it going," Holtkamp said. But he knows that achieving his goals for the future of the LCLS is impossible without excellent support from the lab as a whole.

"There's a need for SLAC to adapt and to make maximum use of its expertise," he said—expertise Holtkamp characterized as "very specific and very deep. There are extremely good people here, and it's a problem to maintain that, to further develop it, to apply it to the science that is to be done in the next hundred years."

"That is a piece that I'd like to contribute to," Holtkamp said. "The discussion of how to set priorities, where to contribute, and therefore keep this laboratory at the forefront of research. SLAC has all these opportunities right now, and I would like to contribute my experience, just a little." He paused. "A little bit. Why not?"

"Norbert Holtkamp is one of the best accelerator physicists of his generation and he makes things happen," said SLAC Director Persis Drell. "I am thrilled that we have attracted him here to SLAC! I expect his impact will be felt nationally; he is intensely collaborative and so getting Norbert to SLAC is a win for all of us."

—Lori Ann White
SLAC Today, November 12, 2010