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Graduate Fellowships Celebrate Accelerator Scientist and Mentor Bob Siemann

(Photo - Bob Siemann)
In yesterday's symposium, Bob Siemann was remembered for his legacy in accelerator science research and mentorship.

To recognize a career of outstanding science and mentorship, Stanford University has created two new graduate fellowships in memory of SLAC accelerator physicist and Professor Robert Siemann. SLAC Director Persis Drell announced the Siemann Graduate Fellowships yesterday in Kavli Auditorium, during introductory remarks for the daylong symposium celebrating Siemann's life and contributions to accelerator science.

"It is incredibly fitting that in honor of Bob's scientific achievements and dedication to teaching, today Stanford University is announcing the establishment of two graduate fellowships in his name," Persis said.

His wife, Hannah Siemann, provided a generous gift to endow the fellowships, to support outstanding physics graduate students who are conducting research at SLAC or in the fields of high energy, particle or accelerator physics at Stanford. Dean Richard Saller of Stanford's School of Humanities and Sciences has matched Mrs. Siemann's gift with funds from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Dean Saller stated, "We are all grateful for Mrs. Siemann's generosity in creating these fellowships, which allows us to support talented students who—like Robert Siemann—will shape the future of their field."

"Accelerator science at SLAC and nationally bears the stamp of Bob's accomplishments and his character," Persis said, noting Siemann's leadership in establishing SLAC and Stanford programs in advanced accelerator research. "More than anyone Bob championed the importance of educating young accelerator scientists, and thanks for Bob and his efforts, Stanford University is one of the premier institutions in the country for educating accelerator physicists."

(Photo - symposium attendees outside Kavli Auditorium)
Siemann's students and colleagues gather outside Kavli Auditorium for coffee before yesterday's symposium. (Photo by Nicholas Bock.)

"If you ever meet a mentor like Bob in your lifetime—even once—you are extremely lucky," said physicist Ping-Jung Chou of the Taiwan Light Source. During his postdoc in the late 1990s, Chou joined Siemann in a his mission to "invent, design, build and commission a 1 Gev/m x 1m linac"—unprecedented particle acceleration in a short distance. Chou and others illustrated their memories of Siemann as hands-on scientist and teacher by sharing a custom Siemann diagram for home-made diagnostic equipment, his exacting notes on drafts—reportedly, among many drafts—of thesis chapters, and photos of Siemann and his team smiling in the sunshine at the local Alpine Inn.

"He really loved teaching," said Brookhaven National Laboraroty physicist Boris Podobedov, who completed his doctoral thesis studying beam stability under Siemann's tutelage. "He had this amazing ability to explain really complicated concepts so that they were crisp and clean… but he never gave the final answers."

Perhaps Siemann's owns words, in e-mail shared by his former student, best illustrate his mentorship. On receiving Podobedov's final, bound doctoral thesis, Siemann wrote:

"Your thesis is on my shelf in the office… I consider those theses to represent some of my most important accomplishments, the education of young people."

—Shawne Workman
SLAC Today, July 8, 2009