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Beam physics

  1. Sep 13, 2006 #1
    say i want to work at an accelerator, smashing some atoms and whatnot -

    as an undergrad i'd like to do a math and physics double major, should i go with applied math or stick to pure mathematics?

    ...or just go to one of those beam schools?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 13, 2006 #2

    Astronuc

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    Well, find a university with both a good/great physics program and good/great mathematics program.

    If one plans to do more theoretical work, then one may wish to pursure pure mathematics. If one will more hands on experimental work or simulations, the applied math would be a good route. Or one could mix the two with more emphasis on the one which supports one's interest in physics.

    Attending a university, which operates an accelerator, would seem to be an advantage.

    One might wish to look at the staff of some major accelerator facilities to see what there backgrounds are. Or join on the physics societies and get involved with those who specialize in accelerators and particle/atomic/beam physics.
     
  4. Sep 14, 2006 #3

    ZapperZ

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    Just to make sure we understand this clearly. Many people confuse "particle accelerator physics" with "particle PHYSICS" or "high energy physics". The term "beam physics" belongs in "particle accelerator physics" (see, for example, the category of the subtopic in Phys. Rev. Lett.).

    Particle accelerators study the physics of charged beams, the physics of particle accelerators, and the engineering/material/design/diagnostics/etc of particle accelerators. Particle accelerators need not be associated at all with "particle physics" and particle colliders. For example, synchrotron centers need particle accelerators for their storage rings - no collisions of any kind here. In fact, collisions of any kind is bad. Free electron lasers also need particle accelerators.

    At the undergraduate level, as far as I know, there aren't that many schools that have sub-programs where undergraduates can enroll in particle accelerator classes (there may be exception at schools that have big particle accelerator programs such as Maryland, Indiana, USC, Cornell, UCLA, Stanford, etc.). So as an undergraduate, the best you can do is prep yourself as much as you can to go into graduate school and specilize in accelerator physics. You need a tremendous background in Electromagnetic theory. This is a must, with no exception. You also need to have a solid foundation in mathematical physics, especially on vector calculus, linear algebra, and special functions. You WILL need to have computational skills. There are several computational packages used in this field such as Superfish, PARMELA, Microwave Studio, etc., and often, you have to write your own code, especially as pre/post processing of input or results for those computational packages.

    Strangely enough, while you do need to know QM as a physics major, QM effects are seldom taken into consideration in beam physics and particle accelerators. Classical physics still dominates here.

    Now, when you get into graduate schools, it is a different matter. Depending on where you go, you may have a bunch of classes that you can take for your specialization, or you may end up with almost none. Particle accelerator is not a large area, and thus, not many schools offer courses in it. This is why the particle accelerator community offers various particle accelerator schools throughout the world to provide students the necessary education. These schools have courses that carry college credits. Most of these courses are at the graduate level, and so carry graduate level college credits. The schools are often conducted during the summer when students can get away from their regular schools. These schools are offered in the US, Europe, Russia, and Japan. You may find more info of these schools at the US Particle Accelerator School page, which has a link to other Particle Accelerator Schools in other parts of the world.

    http://uspas.fnal.gov/

    You could also look at the various subject matter being taught and that will tell you the level of background knowledge you need at the undergraduate level.

    Zz.
     
  5. Sep 14, 2006 #4
    that was an amazing post, but i'm still not clear on accelerator vs collider.

    colliders are just two accelerators pointed at eachother, yes? how can one be considered medium energy and one be high?

    does qm reign in high energy while classical physics does in medium?

    thanks
     
  6. Sep 14, 2006 #5

    Astronuc

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    Accelerators are devices designed to 'accelerate' particles, i.e. greatly increase their kinetic energy.

    A collider is a special type of accelerator system wherein the particles of two beams are brought to collision, usually head-on. That allows for the maximum transformation of kinetic energy in a given interaction, which usually means new types of particles or transformation of the interacting particles, e.g. trying to tear them into their constituents.

    QM applies to understanding the particle interactions on the subatomic level, i.e. at the particle level.
     
  7. Sep 14, 2006 #6

    ZapperZ

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    I'm not sure what exactly that you're asking here.

    Accelerators are of coure needed for particle collider. But particle colliders are NOT the only place where accelerators are needed. Accelerators physicists don't usually care what is done to the particles that they've accelerated - it is up to the facilities involved to do whatever they want. All they care about is generating the necessary beam characteristics that a particular facility needs. In case of synchrotrons, they want evenly spaced charge buckets with a particular maximum energy spread. For particle colliders and FEL, they want low emittance. It has nothing to do with "medium" or "high energy".

    Zz.
     
  8. Sep 27, 2006 #7

    ZapperZ

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    As a follow up, here is the most recent announcement of the next US Particle Accelerator School:

    Zz.
     
  9. Sep 27, 2006 #8
    Another idea if you are more into the hardware and less in the physics is to try to get a job at an accelerator as a engineer. There is (I believe) more of that work than in the pure physics and I am sure it would be very interesting also. You can still get a physics degree or electrical engineering would be good too.
     
  10. Sep 28, 2006 #9
    haha, im one of the many people deciding between EE or physics his second year undergrad :) you hit the nail on the head. it would be great to get two people on the forums in this field to compare these two jobs. anybody do an EE degree and build these things? if i see someone with this history, im pretty decided to do EE!
     
  11. Sep 28, 2006 #10

    ZapperZ

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    I am a physicist working in accelerator physics field. In our group, we have 5 graduate students, and 4 of them are EE majors, with the other one being a physics major. Out of the 5 staff members of our group, 4 are physicists, and one an RF engineer.

    It is NOT uncommon when you get into this field that the two areas overlap, and overlap a lot. The EE majors have to learn a lot of EM fields, not just designing accelerating structures, waveguides, etc. They also have to learn quite a bit of materials properties. The physics majors have to know a lot of engineering, because they have to design components that go into the accelerators, and in some cases, actually build them.

    I would strongly suggest one looks at the curriculum being offered and realize that the credits for those courses are accepted no matter if one is a physics major, or an engineering major.

    Zz.
     
  12. Sep 28, 2006 #11
    that was very very very helpful to me ZapperZ, thankyou!
     
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