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PhD Program in Accelerator Physics

PhD in Accelerator Physics

At Cornell University, PhD students can do research at the Cornell Laboratory for Accelerator-based Sciences and Education (CLASSE), which encompasses the Laboratory for Elementary-Particle Physics (LEPP), the Cornell High-Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS), the Energy Recovery Linac (ERL) project, and the Superconducting Radio Frequency (SRF) Group.

A PhD program in accelerator physics has been operating for many decades, and alumni of this program are employed at many of the world's accelerator centers. Under this program, students from around the world participate in research at the Laboratory, while receiving class instruction and a degree from Cornell University.

Each student will work in a research group which typically involves a professor, postdoctoral research associates, and other graduate students. These mentors will work with the students to define the nature of the research project, organize access to the resources necessary to carry out the research, and guide the participant through frequent interactions.

The student projects are always important elements of the overall research program of CLASSE. Areas of research include general Accelerator Physics, Microwave Superconductivity, Advanced Instrumentation (electronics, lasers, cryogenics, etc), and Synchrotron Radiation in Scientific Research.

Front Line Research at World-Class Facilities

ERL Prototype Injector

The cryostat with RF waveguides of Cornell ERL prototype injector.

X-ray Science

Simulated diffraction amplitudes of an object.

LEPP operates the Cornell Electron-positron Storage Ring (CESR). An active program in accelerator physics research, called CESR-TA, is aimed at developing and testing ideas for future higher luminosity electron-positron colliders, especially the International Linear Collider (ILC), for which CESR serves as a prototype in key areas.

CHESS, the Cornell High-Energy Synchrotron Source provides facilities to utilize the high energy x-rays (synchrotron radiation) produced by CESR for a wide variety of research projects in the energy sciences; biology, chemistry, engineering, materials science, and physics. Members of the CHESS staff develop state of the art instrumentation to support users of the facility and utilize the x-ray beams for their own scientific research.

ERL Light Source

Proposed layout of the Cornell ERL accelerator on the southeast Cornell campus.

ERL Students

Undergraduate and graduate students working on Cornell's ERL injector with physics faculty.

The Energy Recovery Linac (ERL), is currently a budding prototype linear accelerator, funded by the National Science Foundation and New York State. Within the next several years, the ERL will be developed into a powerhouse of accelerator physics and technology. When complete, this superconducting x-ray source will be one of the most advanced on the planet, and will transform the ways in which x-ray science is conducted. The ERL will be a crucial resource to New York State, the nation, and the world, propelling scientific and biomedical advancement and economic development. PhD students and their professors will be central to the development of this forefront facility. Recent years' graduate students have had projects on aspects of the ERL as varied as ultra-high vacuum technology, electron gun design, superconducting RF cavity performance, and beam dynamics simulation.

Superconducting RF

A student works with an SRF cavity.

SRF is a technology in which microwave superconducting cavities are used to efficiently deliver energy to particles in accelerators. Research opportunities in developing instrumentation are also available. These forefront accelerator devices are used in future colliders, advanced light sources, the LHC and the ILC, the world's largest particle physics experiments. Recent research involves the basic science of RF superconductivity, as well as device development.

Unique Research Environment


Beam dynamics modeling using Feynman computer.


Instruction in accelerator theory.


SRF research on single-cell cavities.

Cornell, New York's land-grant university, has one of the largest accelerator physics education programs in the world. The accelerator facilities attract and facilitate training of the talent needed to sustain a high-tech economy into the future.

Few institutions are equipped for the collaborative, multidisciplinary technology required for accelerator development, and even fewer have experience operating large multidisciplinary user facilities.

Cornell has a unique collaborative culture honed by decades of experience operating large-scale national facilities that serve nanotechnology, high-energy physics, accelerator physics, and synchrotron x-ray science.

Professors in the Physics department whose research focuses on accelerator physics are: Ivan Bazarov, Gerry Dugan, Don Hartill, Georg Hoffstaetter, Matthias Liepe, Dave Rubin, Dick Talman and Maury Tigner. Details of their research can be found at:

Become a part of this culture and contribute to accelerator research!

Interested graduate students should apply to Cornell's Graduate School in the field of Physics or Applied and Engineering Physics
and mention in their application Accelerator Physics as the main area of interest.

Undergraduate students who would like to learn more about accelerator physics before applying to Graduate School are encouraged to apply to our REU (Research for Undergraduates) program at

For additional information, please contact:
Ms. Monica Wesley
(607) 255-4952 or