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ORNL, BNL host international particle accelerator conference in Nashville

Woman is standing at podium holding a gavel in the air.
ORNL’s Fulvia Pilat opened the conference on May 19 at Nashville’s Music City Center. Credit: Morgan Visual Productions

In May, the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge and Brookhaven national laboratories co-hosted the 15th annual International Particle Accelerator Conference, or IPAC, at the Music City Center in Nashville, Tennessee. 

When IPAC launched in Kyoto, Japan in 2010, it signified remarkable advancement for particle accelerator communities throughout the world. Before IPAC was created, these conferences were once divided into PACs in Asia, Europe and the Americas. Now, IPAC unites researchers, industry and academia for a global exchange of ideas, which has since bloomed into contributions that have helped fuel innovation for discovery science, medicine, industry and security. 

Many of the 40,000 particle accelerators in operation today support commercial uses, such as accelerators the size of X-ray machines used for radiation treatment at hospitals. Other particle accelerators at facilities dedicated to basic science research, such as ORNL’s Spallation Neutron Source or Brookhaven’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, draw scientists from all over the world who work together to understand the behavior of different materials and matter at atomic and subatomic levels. Industry can develop the materials science results into usable technology, such as stronger glass for mobile devices, more effective drugs, cars with better gas mileage and batteries that are safer, charge faster and last longer.

IPAC’24 was the second IPAC since the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like most technical conferences during the pandemic, IPACs were held online. Although the virtual conference reduced costs for travel and increased convenience, it highlighted the importance and benefits of in-person connection. 

“The level of interaction was extraordinary,” said Fulvia Pilat, conference chair and director for the Research Accelerator Division in Neutron Sciences at ORNL. “The plenary talks, invited talks, contributed talks and poster sessions gave immediate access to all the ideas presented at IPAC’24, allowing people to strike collaborations and plan future works together. The satellite meetings allowed people to meet for focused topics. For instance, there was a large satellite meeting to open the Accelerator Collaboration for the Electron-Ion Collider at Brookhaven, a project that is being executed jointly by Brookhaven and Jefferson Lab.” 

Two men and a woman stand on bright green carpet dressed in suites in the exhibit hall.
From the left, Scientific Program Chair Wolfram Fischer of BNL, Conference Chair Fulvia Pilat and Local Organizing Committee Chair Rob Saethre of ORNL stand before the exhibit hall on opening day of IPAC’24 in Nashville, Tennessee. Credit: Fulvia Pilat/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

In order to meet the demands of a conference of this size, Pilat started organizing IPAC’24 more than five years ago. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE, and American Physical Society, or APS, sponsor the IPAC conference series in the Americas.

Marking a first for the event, the Proceedings Office completed the IPAC'24 prepress proceedings before the end of the conference. The preliminary edition of the proceedings included all submitted papers, which were edited and processed by organizers of the Joint Accelerator Conferences Website, or JACoW, an international collaboration that publishes proceedings for accelerator conferences around the world. 

Organized by Wolfram Fischer, collider-accelerator department chair at BNL, the Scientific Program Committee’s goal was to create an exciting program that showed the most important developments in the field and represented a comprehensive view of the world-wide efforts. 

“It was a great pleasure to collaborate with our colleges and friends from ORNL to make this event the best it could be,” Fischer said.

IPAC’24 featured almost 1,300 attendees, 1,040 papers and 95 exhibitors. It included 87 talks, 7 invited industry talks and 1,325 posters covering many types of particles (e.g., electrons, positrons, protons, ions, muons, neutrons), accelerators (e.g., storage rings, linear accelerators, cyclotrons, plasma accelerators), all use cases (e.g., particle and nuclear physics, photon science, neutron science, medical and industrial applications, material science, biological and chemical usages of accelerators) and institutes from all three regions across Tennessee. 

The conference program included opening remarks from Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Stuart McWhorter and ORNL Director Stephen Streiffer. During the opening plenaries, Sarah Cousineau, accelerator science and technology section head in the Research Accelerator Division at ORNL, gave an overview of the Spallation Neutron Source’s history and performance. 

The Women in Science and Engineering, or WISE, event at IPAC’24 was a joint event with Physical Review Accelerators and Beams journal, or PRAB. A WISE panel discussion featured BNL Director JoAnne Hewett, CERN Director-General Fabiola Gianotti (via videoconference) and National High Magnetic Field Laboratory Director Kathleen Amm (via videoconference). The panel was moderated by Young-Kee Kim, president of the American Physical Society and Louis Block distinguished service professor of physics at the University of Chicago. Frank Zimmermann, chief editor of PRAB, invited papers expanding on original research and topical reviews presented at IPAC’24. With over 250 participants, positive feedback from the WISE event emphasized the need to strengthen this topic in future IPACs.

Big group of adults pose in teal colored tshirts under the Welcome to IPAC'24 sign.
Proceedings Office editors processed more than 1,000 papers during the four-day conference, marking a first for the JACoW-edited event. Credit: Morgan Visual Productions

The Louis Costrell Awards banquet featured multiple awards and recognitions. The Robert R. Wilson Prize for Achievement in the Physics of Particle Accelerators went to Kaoru Yokoya of Japan's High Energy Accelerator Research Organization. The IEEE Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society 2024 Particle Accelerator Science and Technology Award went to Gennady Stupakov of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and xLight Inc. IEEE’s Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society Particle Accelerator Science and Technology Early Career Award went to Agostino Marinelli of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. APS’s Ernest Courant Award for Outstanding Paper went to Pantaleo Raimondi of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and Simone Maria Liuzzo to the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility. APS’s award for Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Research in Beam Physics Award went to Minghao Song of BNL. And the 2024 Particle Accelerator Science and Technology Doctoral Student Award went to Kellen McGee, now at Fermilab, for work at the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams.

A post-conference tour of ORNL, a world premier research institution, included visits to the Spallation Neutron Source, an accelerator-driven user facility; the High-Flux Isotope Reactor, the strongest reactor-based neutron source in the United States; and the historic Graphite Reactor.

"Everything worked very well because we had a phenomenal team," said Rob Saethre, local organizing committee chair and asset management and engineering program manager for ORNL’s Neutron Sciences Directorate. “The Local Organizing Committee, including colleagues and peers from ORNL, BNL and Kristy Geiger, a conference organizer from Eventive Thinking, and all the others who've worked tirelessly over the last year and who came in the final hours — they were all dynamite."

IPAC’24 went out with a bang. On the final night during the conference banquet, the Local Organizing Committee hosted group line dancing, which brought hundreds of attendees to the dance floor, scuffling in boots to some of Music City’s greatest hits.

“It was a bit of a gamble having IPAC in Nashville,” Pilat said. “People know New York, Los Angeles and so on. But at the end of the day, everyone was extremely enthusiastic, and Nashville’s amenities couldn’t have been more perfect.”

IPAC’25 will take place in Taiwan.

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. The Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information visit