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CAS40 - A look back at forty years CERN Accelerator School

Research infrastructures require the world to work together on the design, construction, operation and subsequent optimization of these facilities to fully exploit their discovery potential. Scientists and engineers are working together across country borders, research disciplines, building bridges also between cultures, genders and generations. Sharing knowledge enables collaborations among researchers, leading to the formation of new ideas and research projects.

CAS40 Week aimed to create an atmosphere for professionals, researchers, and enthusiasts to exchange ideas and celebrate achievements in accelerator technology and education (Credit: CERN)

These are the ideas that brought up the first course of the CERN Accelerator School (CAS) forty year ago, in October 1983. Held at CERN, the course had the purpose of the communication of deep knowledge and the cultivation of teamwork during an era when significant progress could still be achieved by a single inventive scientist.

Four decades ago, the landscape of accelerator physics was vastly different from today's high-tech reality. Communication relied on telephones, faxes, and letters, with information primarily found in published books or conference proceedings.

Lectures at that time were based on hand-written transparencies, sometimes pictures and sketches, or transparency copies from books.

The first CAS course in October 1983 "Antiprotons for colliding beam facilities" being introduced by Kjell Johnson, with Simon van der Meer in the front row. (Credit: CERN PhotoLab 300-10-83)

A key factor to the school’s success has been its innovative educational approach and the flexibility to adapt to new learning processes. Participants attend lectures delivered by selected lecturers, including some of the world’s foremost experts in accelerator physics, who willingly share their knowledge and insights in an engaging and accessible manner.

CERN celebrated this special anniversary with a special CAS40 Week in September 2023, which featured a diverse range of activities. The central point of engagement was the CAS stand, strategically positioned in Restaurant 1, which showcased the school's history, achievements, and its mission to advance accelerator technology education. This visual display was not only informative but also served as a conversation starter for attendees interested in the world of particle accelerators and their applications.  A particularly exciting highlight of CAS40 Week was a special concert scheduled for the 14th of September during lunchtime. This concert, organised in collaboration with the CERN Music Club, promised to be a celebration of both the school's milestone and the power of networking within the CERN research community.

A particularly exciting highlight of CAS40 Week was a special concert, organized in collaboration with the CERN Music Club. (Credit: CERN/ Noemi Caraban)

 Another event in January 2024 honoured the dedicated lecturers, hands-on professionals and collaborators that come to CAS from CERN and from various institutes worldwide who have contributed all these years. A special award went to Piotr Kowina, from GSI and to Massimo Ferrario, from INFN.

Many of the current lecturers at CAS were once students and newcomers themselves. Now, they are recognised professors with successful careers and continue supporting the school and its specialised group of lecturers.

Prof Carsten P Welsch, Head of the Accelerator Physics Cluster at the University of Liverpool, said: "I had the pleasure of joining several CAS at the start of my career, before becoming a CAS lecturer years later. The fantastic atmosphere found at each School made it much easier to learn the, at times very difficult, material. The schools were undoubtedly key for fascinating me for the world of accelerators. A number of the friendships I made at CAS have become excellent scientific collaborations and large scale projects. Happy birthday, CAS!"

Over CAS’ 40 year-long history, more than 6000 accelerator students and professionals have been trained, over a hundred accelerator schools have been held, and over forty publications have been carefully and rigorously compiled. Many of its alumni have gone on to play crucial roles in the development, construction, and operation of particle accelerators around the world.

Today, any new accelerator is the result of international collaborations featuring many individual contributions. CAS promotes this development concept by fostering collaboration right from the start of the initial courses, ensuring that students engage in teamwork and maintain the connections forged during the courses throughout their careers.


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