Derbenev Wins R.R. Wilson Prize for Accelerator Achievements

Yaroslav Derbenev
Yaroslav Derbenev
Accelerator Division Senior Staff Scientist

Jefferson Lab Senior Staff Scientist Yaroslav Derbenev, from the Accelerator Division, has been named the recipient of the American Physical Society's 2011 Robert R. Wilson Prize for Achievement in the Physics of Particle Accelerators.

The annual prize recognizes and encourages outstanding achievement in the physics of particle accelerators. Derbenev was honored "for a broad range of seminal contributions and innovations in beam physics, including theory and control of polarization with 'Siberian snakes,' electron and ionization cooling, round-to-flat beam transformations, Free-Electron Lasers and electron-ion colliders." He will receive a prize certificate, $7,500, and an allowance for travel to the meeting at which the prize is awarded.

"I am especially pleased that the prize committee is recognizing conceptual development of the Electron-Ion Collider," Derbenev said, after learning of the award. "This is the result of many years of effort by JLab's nuclear and accelerator physicists to establish a viable perspective for a bright future of nuclear physics at Jefferson Lab."

"The EIC proposal is now receiving serious support from JLab leadership and DOE," Derbenev affirmed. "It is a growing attraction for the nuclear and accelerator communities. Explorations into building the nuclear physics case and innovative developments in accelerator and detector design and technology have been made toward attaining the high luminosity, polarized beams needed for a CEBAF-based Electron-Ion Collider." 

In early August, Jefferson Lab hosted an international Beam Physics Symposium to honor Derbenev's lifetime of achievements in accelerator and beam physics and to celebrate his 70th birthday. Derbenev's distinguished career spans 50 years and stretches from Novosibirsk to Yerevan and from Ann Arbor, Mich., to JLab's Center for Advanced Studies of Accelerators.

In 2007, Derbenev was awarded the U.S. Particle Accelerator School's 2007 Prize for Achievement in Accelerator Physics and Technology. He was honored for his seminal contributions to the theory of beam polarization in accelerators and its control with "Siberian snakes," the theory of electron cooling and the inventions of "round-to-flat" beam optics transformations and novel six-dimensional muon cooling schemes. The award was presented to him at the 2007 Particle Accelerator Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Over the years he has authored or co-authored hundreds of papers and technical notes, participated in many conference proceedings and helped develop several reports.

Slava, as he's known to his Jefferson Lab colleagues, graduated from Moscow State University with a master's in physics and then went on to the Budker Institute of Nuclear Physics in Novosibirsk for his doctorate. While working on his doctorate, Derbenev's supervisor took him to meet Gersh Budker. "He asked me about my work and was told that I was a theorist," Derbenev said with a laugh at the memory, "and he told me the world didn't need any more theorists."

As a child he envisioned himself becoming an astronomer after his mother began to teach him about the night sky and gave him his first instruments, but his head was turned and his career course set by his high school physics teacher, who instilled in him a passion for science.

His early career was spent working at BINP, the Institute of Complete Electric Drive in Novosibirsk and the Institute of Physics in Yerevan. He first came to the United States as a visiting accelerator physicist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and then went on to CERN and DESY before returning to the U.S. to work at SLAC. From 1990 to 2000, he was a visiting professor at the University of Michigan. He came to Jefferson Lab in 2001, where his work focuses on advanced concepts for a proposed electron-ion collider, radiofrequency control theory and new concepts for hard radiation sources, as well as development of new concepts for electron cooling of ions and ionization cooling of muon beams for the neutrino factory and the muon collider at FermiLab. "Being here is like a professional dream," he said.

He and his wife, Svetlana, who worked in molecular spectography in Russia, live in Williamsburg. Their daughter and three grandchildren live in Novosibirsk, and his son and his family live in Philadelphia. He proudly notes that his oldest grandson is also into physics.

Derbenev and Svetlana love to travel and have been on numerous European tours and cruises to the Caribbean. They've traveled the U.S. by car from Ann Arbor to San Francisco. An as yet unfilled dream is to visit Alaska. The scientist is a self-described "passionate listener" to all types of music and loves to play chess.