Cockcroft Early Career Excellence Awards 2019/20

The director of the Cockcroft Institute, Prof Peter Ratoff, announced the winners of the first Cockcroft Institute Early Career Excellence Awards as Dr Paul Scherkl (University of Strathclyde) and Dr Jinchi Cai (Lancaster University /CERN).

The Cockcroft Institute Early Career Excellence Awards were established to recognise and encourage outstanding research in early career staff or PhD students working at the Cockcroft Institute. The prize will be awarded annually on the basis of the significance of their contribution to an internationally leading publication or other research output realized in the calendar year of the award.

Exceptionally, two prizes have been awarded this year, for contributions made during the 2019 and 2020 calendar years respectively.

Dr Paul Scherkl was awarded the 2019 prize for his work on plasma photocathode development, and Dr Jinchi Cai obtained the 2020 prize for his contributions to the development of high efficiency klystrons.

Dr Paul Scherkl is a postdoc at University of Strathclyde in the field of plasma-based wakefield acceleration and metrology. At SLAC FACET, he has contributed to the first realization of the plasma photocathode, optical plasma downramp injection, and plasma afterglow metrology. These connected innovations open a door to the generation as well as measurement of electron beams from plasmas orders of magnitude brighter than state-of-the-art. Paul has contributed to intellectual property constituting the approaches in collaboration with industry, and despite being an early career scientist, has obtained experimental beamtime at SLAC and DESY in PI and co-PI roles to further develop the methods. In the STFC PWFA-FEL and the ERC NeXource projects, the generation of such dramatically brighter beams and their exploitation e.g. for photon science light sources is now steaming ahead.

Dr Jinchi Cai is a senior postdoctoral fellow at Lancaster University, but based at CERN. He has spent the last 4 years revolutionising klystron design by developing much higher efficiency devices allowing a major reduction in the carbon footprint of future accelerators. Jinchi has been involved in the design of novel klystrons for LHC, CLIC, FCC and CompactLight, and is working with industry to bring these products to market. He has also written and released a new code for Klystron simulations, CLIC being used at several labs and industrial partners. The award was based on his publication on a new concept of a 2-stage klystron where efficient bunching is performed at low energy before post accelerating the beam in a DC gap before RF power extraction. This new methodology allows much shorter klystrons while achieving significantly higher wall-plug efficiencies. The winners will be invited to deliver a full CI seminar about the work which underpinned the award of the prize.