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Accelerator physics

  1. Apr 11, 2010 #1
    Hello all,
    for a normal physicist (a bit with materials science) how easy will be accelerator physics (AP). Is AP is that difficult to work with ?
    Is AP is purely applying theory to beam physics ?
    How much programming experience needed ?
    Is it easy to get a job/postdoc in accelerator physics area for a normal physicist?

    It will be highly helpful for me. If any one working in AP area please discuss.
    [these days i see lots of accelerator physics jobs..]-is this area has lots of demand?

    thanks a lot
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2010
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 26, 2010 #2
    Judging by your question I'm guessing you have a PhD (since you asked about postdocs). They are out there (look at the major accelerator facilities like SLAC, Fermi, CERN, DESY, etc).

    AP is a lot of applying what you know about fundamental physics (think a combination of E&M and Mechanics with differential equations to your hearts content).

    A background in particle or nuclear physics would probably be an easy step. A number of the people I work with did their PhD work in plasma physics and even electrical engineering.

    As to programming experience it certainly helps. Being able to build computer models is of great utility.

    Hope that helped.

    (If you're wondering I'm an accelerator operator with a BS on the way to a MS)
  4. Apr 26, 2010 #3


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    Accelerator physics involves predominantly classical E&M. This is where if you think the Jackson's textbook is mainly used as a torture device to graduate students, you will have to change your mind. You literally will need the book. You will need it in understanding the design of RF cavities, accelerating structure, and beam dynamics. This is also why electrical engineers are also common within this field of study.

    You will need to know programming, especially if you are in beam physics. But you need to know it for your ability to use the various codes that are commonly used. Codes like PAMELA, PICT, etc, for beam dynamics, and more commercial packages such as COMSOL, Microwave Studio, etc. for EM field solution are quite common.

    Most students who major in accelerator physics WILL enroll in one or more particle accelerator schools that are offered throughout the US, Europe, and Asia. Since no one school is able to offer all the necessary coursework for such a major, the particle accelerator community throughout the world has decided to offer college-credit courses for students. But these courses are also taken by professionals and people who already have degrees in other fields but are switching into accelerator physics. So the accelerator schools are quite useful. You can check it out here:


  5. Apr 26, 2010 #4
    Hi Both of you,

    AP seems like a classical electrodynamics [as you mentioned JD Jackson's book]. Also like pure theory. But stuffs like syncrotron, beam physics, vacuum system in syncrotrons, are interesting for me. As i am not a particle physicist, i don't know how can i enter in these challenging areas.
    Programming: I am ultra good..but average level programmer (only C).
    PhD-not yet finished but in last stage of writing work..after writing i will apply..
    Recently i notice few jobs (postdoc) in Fermilab..but all are particle physics, beam physics, AP, etc..But preference will be given to those who will take the 1st long-term postdoc.
    let me see.
    thanks, rajini
  6. Apr 26, 2010 #5


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    Accelerator physics has NOTHING to do with particle physics. That is a myth and a misunderstanding. A synchrotron light source isn't a "high energy physics" facility!

    Now, accelerator physics DO work at collider facilities. This is because in that case, they are producing beams for high energy physics experiments. But accelerator physicists also work at medical accelerator facility that has nothing to do whatsoever with high energy/particle physics!

    Look at the curriculum given in the link I gave to the USPAS. Do you see any "particle physics" class?

  7. Apr 26, 2010 #6
    Zapper is spot on. Don't confuse the two subjects, they intersect but are certainly not the same.

    If you want a better idea the texts by S. Y. Lee and Helmut Wiedemann are pretty comprehensive and are worth a look.
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