Cameron Geddes (Credit: Thor Swift/Berkeley Lab)

Following an international search, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has named Cameron Geddes, an award-winning scientist who is internationally known for his work on laser-plasma accelerators, to serve as Accelerator Technology and Applied Physics (ATAP) Division Director. His new role is effective March 29, 2021.

Geddes joined ATAP’s Berkeley Lab Laser Accelerator Center (BELLA) in 2000 as a UC Berkeley graduate student and a Hertz Fellow. He earned his Ph.D. in physics in 2005 and became a research scientist in the Center. Progressive responsibilities culminated in his appointment as BELLA Center’s Deputy Director for Experiments in January 2019.

“Cameron is an outstanding choice, and I am excited for the opportunity to work with him to continue advancing ATAP’s research portfolio across a broad front of accelerator and fusion science,” said Natalie Roe, the Associate Laboratory Director for the Physical Sciences Area. “I would also like to thank Thomas Schenkel for his excellent leadership as Interim ATAP Division Director for the past two years.”

“I am honored to be named to this position,” says Geddes. “ATAP has a unique combination of expertise that works together to enable new science and capabilities.”

He cited the proposed next-generation laser facility kBELLA, which he helped develop, as an example. “From accelerators and plasmas to magnets and lasers, that synergy of capabilities is really the signature of the Division,” he added.

ATAP is one of four divisions in Berkeley Lab’s Physical Sciences Area, together with the Physics, Nuclear Science, and Engineering Divisions. ATAP supports DOE’s mission by inventing, developing, and deploying particle accelerators and photon sources to explore and control matter and energy as well as systems for fusion, new materials, and related areas of applied physics.

The division has a broad spectrum of expertise in accelerator and beam physics, in plasma science and computer modeling, and in enabling technologies that include superconducting magnets, ultrafast high average power lasers, and controls and instrumentation. This research is important throughout the sciences and in numerous commercial applications. Examples include fundamental explorations of matter and energy (such as the luminosity upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider and new accelerator technologies); photon sources like Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source that support discovery science ranging from advanced battery chemistry to protein crystallography; the quest for fusion energy and new states of matter (which leverage ATAP’s advanced magnet technologies and accelerator and laser drivers); and societally beneficial spinoff applications that range from quantum computing to improved medical therapy.

At BELLA Center, Geddes most recently led creation of a quasi-monoenergetic gamma-ray source that can bring new capabilities to nuclear security applications (as well as medical and industrial imaging) based on compact laser-plasma accelerators. He oversaw the experimental portfolio within the BELLA Center, which develops plasma accelerators to extend the energy frontier of future high-energy physics and for photon sources and applications. It includes two projects: the petawatt second beamline for high-energy physics and a high-intensity, tight-focus beamline for ion acceleration, oriented toward fusion energy sciences.

“Cameron provided outstanding leadership to our wide array of experimental activities,” says Eric Esarey, Director of the BELLA Center. “In addition to his keen scientific insight, he brought positive energy and created an atmosphere of enthusiasm and inclusion within the BELLA Center.”

Recognition for Geddes’s work includes the U.S. Particle Accelerator School Prize, the American Physical Society Division of Plasma Physics (APS-DPP) John Dawson Award for Excellence in Plasma Physics Research, and Fellowship in the APS. His graduate work was recognized with the APS-DPP’s Marshall N. Rosenbluth Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Award, as well as the Hertz Foundation Dissertation Prize.

In addition to laboratory endeavors, Geddes is well known for work on the national planning committees that build the future of team science. These efforts gather diverse voices together into community consensus, expressed in reports that guide agency decisions. Presently he is a co-convener of the Advanced Accelerators topic in the “Snowmass” process that provides key input to the strategic direction of U.S. investment in high-energy physics. Other recent examples include service on the DOE Fusion Energy Sciences Committee’s Subcommittee on Long-Range Planning, which recently generated a decadal plan for the field; the APS-DPP Community Planning for Fusion Energy Sciences; and the Brightest Light Initiative, which defined a path forward for ultra-intense lasers in the U.S. Geddes was also a chapter lead for the National Academies’ recent Decadal Assessment of Plasma Science.

As an undergraduate intern at Berkeley Lab, Geddes performed high-energy physics detector work under James Siegrist, who at the time was in Berkeley Lab’s Physics Division. His career has ranged through both magnetic and inertial confinement fusion, many experimental aspects of laser-plasma accelerators and their applications, and computer modeling, all of which gives him a special appreciation of the breadth and mutually reinforcing character of ATAP’s research portfolio.

Cameron has a long history of commitment to developing both the quality and the diversity of ATAP’s workforce. “I see IDEA [the Lab-wide commitment to inclusiveness, diversity, equity, and accountability] as integral to both our workplace climate and our scientific leadership,” Geddes said.  “It’s critical that we bring the best people to the Lab from all backgrounds, break down barriers, and create a culture in which they can thrive. That benefits both our progress and our engagement with the communities that we serve.”

BELLA Center staff scientist Jeroen van Tilborg, who has led several Center initiatives, including a compact free-electron laser (FEL) driven by a laser-plasma accelerator, will fill Geddes’s former position as BELLA Center’s Deputy Director for Experiments.

Thomas Schenkel, who has served ATAP as Interim Director since January 2019, will resume full-time duties as head of ATAP’s Fusion Science and Ion Beam Technology Program. He is excited to pursue new opportunities in that diverse and highly collaborative program on themes of qubits, beams and fusion, including his work in the hardware foundations of approaches to quantum information science applications with spins and color centers.

“I leave the Division in good hands,” said Schenkel. “Cameron is impressive in both breadth and depth as a physicist, and also has interpersonal skills that will lead us to further success.”

“What we do all across ATAP is important to meeting the nation’s scientific needs,” said Geddes. “I’m excited to work with these great people, and our partners at other labs and universities, to build next-generation technologies and applications.”

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