Eric Colby to Help DOE Promote Wider Use of Accelerator Technologies

February 1, 2013

Eric Colby, SLAC senior staff scientist and head of the Accelerator Research Division, today starts a two-year temporary assignment to help the Department of Energy promote the wider use of particle accelerators and associated technologies in industry as well as in other governmental agencies.

“This is a once-in-a-career opportunity to raise the awareness of accelerator science and to help others take advantage of the many innovative technologies developed recently for accelerators,” Colby said. For example, new compact radio-frequency accelerator designs could improve carbon-ion and proton cancer treatments, and advanced magnets developed for accelerators might be incorporated into smaller, more efficient and less costly medical instruments. Colby said he plans to return to SLAC at the end of the assignment.

Colby is joining a new “accelerator stewardship” activity at DOE that grew out of the 2009 "Accelerators for America's Future" workshop and a 2011 DOE task force report. The task force was convened after the Senate Appropriations Committee asked the Department of Energy to develop and submit a 10-year strategic R&D plan for advancing accelerator applications in energy and the environment, medicine, industry, national security and discovery science.

Colby’s office will be in DOE’s Germantown, Maryland building, about 25 miles from downtown Washington, D.C. He will report to James Siegrist, director of the DOE’s Office of High Energy Physics (HEP).

“We’re very excited that Eric’s joining us,” Siegrist said. “He’s a well-known expert in the accelerator community, is intimately familiar with the myriad technical issues and has extensive contacts within government and industry.”

Siegrist added that Colby will also use his laser expertise to help create a new core research effort within HEP that would develop new ways of using lasers in and with particle accelerators.

“Eric’s a natural for this position,” said Norbert Holtkamp, director of SLAC’s Accelerator Directorate and leader of the 2011 task force. “For more than a decade, he has been vocal in his support of tech transfer to extend the use of accelerator technologies far beyond the realm of high-energy physics.”

Colby joined SLAC in 1998, shortly after earning his Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles. He has researched millimeter-wave power production, high-brightness injector physics and laser-driven acceleration in dielectric structures. Colby was named head of SLAC’s Accelerator Research Division in 2011.

“For SLAC, Eric’s move is a great loss,” Holtkamp said. “But for the field, it’s a great gain.”

Bob Hettel will be acting head of the Accelerator Research Division, Holtkamp said, while a national search for Colby’s successor is conducted.