IPAC 18 – A PhD student’s experience

Between the 29 April and 4 May this year, physicists and engineers from around the world gathered in Vancouver, Canada for the 9th International Particle Accelerator Conference (IPAC 18). I was fortunate enough to be able to join them, thanks to student grants from the Institute of Physics and the organisers of IPAC 18. As a second year PhD student, this was the biggest conference I have attended and it provided a great opportunity for me to discover more about the international community surrounding accelerator research.

My conference experience began earlier than most, with two days of tutorials especially designed for student attendees, at the impressive University of British Columbia. These tutorials were delivered by leading scientists including Stephen Brooks from BNL, Félicie Albert from LLNL and Oliver Brüning from CERN, just to name a few. The talks provided introductions to topics that would later make up the session themes at the main conference. All the speakers were very approachable, sharing lunch with the students and answering lots of questions. This is the first year IPAC has held student tutorials, and they really served as a positive and welcoming start to the week. I hope they will be included at the conference in the future.

Kay Dewhurst presenting a poster on Laser Wakefield Acceleration (LWFA) at IPAC18.

IPAC 18 officially began with a student poster session, where I displayed my poster amongst other students working on Laser Wakefield Acceleration (LWFA). Although manning a poster for 4 hours is hard on the feet, I was able to have insightful conversations with the students around me, finding out about their areas of research as well as the best things to see and do in Vancouver. At this session, poster judges asked each student to present their work, which served as a useful practise for the main poster session later in the week where we could expect many more visitors.

The conference was a great success and really useful for me as a PhD student to learn about all the activity in the world of accelerator physics and make some meaningful connections. The talks were very wide ranging, from interesting project updates such as the CBETA talk by Georg Hoffstaetter (Cornell), to emerging topics such as Applying Artificial Intelligence to Accelerators by Alexander Scheinker (LANL). I found the poster sessions particularly useful for finding out about other groups who are also researching beamlines for LWFA, including those from ELI (Europe), COXINEL (France) and KIT (Germany).

The conference was very vibrant and exciting with lots of satellite events surrounding the main talks, poster sessions and industrial partner stalls. I particularly enjoyed the student “Breakfast and Learn” event on the publishing process hosted by APS Physics, and the Women In Science and Engineering dinner with guest speaker Grace Wong-Sneddon. I finished my visit to IPAC with a guided tour of the TRIUMF accelerator facility. It was great to see the large range of experiments at TRIUMF and hear from the enthusiastic guides about their work. Not forgetting how cool it was to stand on top of the world’s largest cyclotron! Throughout my IPAC 18 experience I learned a lot about my field and also met a lot of researchers that I hope to collaborate with in the future, a really enjoyable and useful experience.

by Kay Dewhurst