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Wim Leemans to become new director of DESY’s accelerator division

Plasma accelerator pioneer arriving from Berkeley Lab in the USA

Dr. Wim Leemans is to become the new director of the Accelerator Division at DESY. Leemans, who was born in Belgium, is currently in charge of the Accelerator Technology and Applied Physics Division at Berkeley Lab (California, USA) and the head of the BELLA Center (Berkeley Lab Laser Accelerator Center).

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Wim Leemans, plasma accelerator pioneer from Berkeley Lab in California, will join DESY (photo: Paul Mueller, Berkeley Lab).
“Wim Leemans is one of the most prominent leaders in accelerator research and in the development of advanced laser plasma accelerators. We are proud and happy to have an international top scientist of this caliber on board at DESY,” says professor Helmut Dosch, the chairman of the DESY Board of Directors. “This is an enormous boost for DESY, the Helmholtz Association and German science as a whole.”

Wim Leemans moved to California very early on in his career: the Belgian wrote his doctoral thesis in electrical engineering at the University of California in Los Angeles, after which he worked at Berkeley Lab for 27 years, during which time he established the laser accelerator programme at the research facility and led it to international acclaim. His team at the BELLA Center was the first to succeed in accelerating electrons to energies of the order of a giga-electronvolt (GeV) in a laser plasma accelerator and later set the record of 4.2 GeV for the energy added during a single stage of acceleration, as well as demonstrating for the first time that multi-stage acceleration is possible using plasma accelerators. Leemans has received numerous scientific prizes for his research.

Dr. Volkmar Dietz, head of the division „Large Facilities and Basic Research” in the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) says: “Winning over Professor Leemans shows just how attractive Germany is as a place for doing research. The research policy decisions of recent years, especially the Academic Freedom Act, are bearing fruit. With this coup, DESY has succeeded in bringing an outstanding, internationally recognised scientist back to Europe. And it is important for the future of scientific large-scale infrastructure in Germany that we position ourselves well especially in the development of accelerators.”

“Recruiting a scientist of such international renown as Wim Leemans is also an expression of DESY’s dedicated and worldwide recruitment strategy. State-of-the-art research is only possible if we manage to win over the best international talents and offer them excellent working conditions at a cosmopolitan centre. In future, we want to build on this success – together with Wim Leemans,” explains DESY’s administrative director Christian Harringa.

Leemans will be assuming his office at DESY on 1 February 2019. He succeeds Reinhard Brinkmann, who has held the office of Director of the Accelerator Division since July 2007 and is now at his own request returning to DESY’s accelerator research as a lead scientist. In this capacity, Brinkmann would like to place particular emphasis on the future project PETRA IV, but also on the study of novel accelerator concepts. “Reinhard Brinkmann has been key for the success of our lab with his seminal work from his contribution to HERA to the successful construction and commissioning of the superconducting LINAC of the European XFEL,” emphasizes Helmut Dosch. “I owe Reinhard my deepest thanks and look forward to his further fruitful work for DESY.”