Thursday, August 16, 2007

SLAC Faces Layoffs as Research Evolves

As SLAC evolves itself from a particle physics facility into a light source facilities, projects and experiments close down one after another. The evolution into its new life also means workers and scientists being laid off during the transformation.

“Scientific projects at a big lab like SLAC are constantly in evolution,” Calder said. “The End Station A series of experiments and installations are coming to a final point. This is particle physics research. At SLAC there is an overall change taking place, there is more emphasis on the photon science research rather than the particle physics research for which SLAC became famous.”

In September 2008, SLAC will also shut down its BaBar project, a particle physics experiment that has been running since 1999. Calder called the project “the last big particle physics experiment at SLAC.” The center hopes to move in a new direction in 2009, when it begins operating its Linac Coherent Light Source photon science project, the first x-ray free electron laser.

This is also another clear indication of the diminishing activity in experimental high energy physics in the US. As CERN's LHC is about to go online next year, SLAC's transformation, along with the scheduled Tevatron's shut down by 2010, high-energy physics experiments in the US will become dormant (dead?) for the next decade or so, especially with the decision on the ILC being postponed to possibly 2016 or even later. Can the US afford to be asleep in this field of study for that long?


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