Swapan Chattopadhyay

Swapan Chattopadhyay (born December 26, 1951) is a particle accelerator physicist noted for his pioneering contributions of innovative concepts, techniques and developments in high energy particle colliders, coherent and incoherent light sources, ultrafast sciences in the femto- and atto- second regimes, superconducting linear accelerators and various applications of interaction of particle and light beams. He has directly contributed to the development of many accelerators around the world, e.g. the Super Proton-Antiproton Synchrotron at CERN, the Advanced Light Source at Berkeley, the asymmetric-energy electron-positron colliderPEP-II at Stanford, the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator facility (CEBAF) at Jefferson Lab and the Free-Electron Lasers at Jefferson and Daresbury Laboratories.

Currently, Chattopadhyay holds the Presidential Chair of Research, Scholarship and Artistry at Northern Illinois University (NIU) where he is Professor of Physics and Director of Accelerator Research. Concurrently he holds a joint appointment with Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) where he is a distinguished scientist, member of the director’s senior leadership team and director of the Cooperative Research and Development Agreement between Fermilab and NIU. He was formerly the Sir John Cockcroft Chair of Physics jointly at the Universities of Liverpool, Manchester and Lancaster — the First Chair of accelerator physics in UK, named after the British Nobel Laureate credited with creating the field. In this role he was the Inaugural Director of theCockcroft Institute (UK), having been appointed in April 2007. Prior to this he served as Associate Director of Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (2001–2007);Staff/ Senior Scientist and Founding Director of the Centre for Beam Physics atLawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (1984–2001); and Scientific Attaché at CERN (1982- 1984). Having spent his early childhood in Calcutta and Darjeeling in India, he completed his undergraduate studies as a National Scholar and National Science Talent Scholar before receiving his Ph.D. in Physics from University of California at Berkeley in 1982. He had held Visiting Professor appointments at University of California at Berkeley, Harvard University, University of Illinois at Urbana Champagne and University of Virginia at Charlottesville at various times. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Institute of Physics (UK) and Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (UK) and a member of many international panels and committees, including the “International Committee for Future Accelerators” and the DESY Science Council. He had served as the Vice-Chair, Chair-elect, Chair and Past-Chair of the American Physical Society’s Division of Physics of Beams (2007–2011). He has mentored many scientists and engineers across the globe including Asia, North America and Europe and has delivered endowed lectures throughout the world e.g. Saha Memorial Lecture, Homi Bhabha Lecture, Raja Ramanna Memorial Lecture, and Cavendish Lecture among many.

Early life and education

Early childhood

Swapan Chattopadhyay was born in Calcutta, India and spent his impressionable early childhood years in the Himalayan hill town ofDarjeeling. His father, educated as a chemist but trained in telecommunications via his chosen profession, was posted, from the mid 1950s till the early 1960s, in Darjeeling as the “officer-in-charge” of communications in the mountain districts of Darjeeling, Sikkim, parts of Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet (now China) on behalf of the Post, Telegraph and Telephone (PT&T) department of India. There growing up as a young boy, along with developing an appreciation for the region’s famously exotic tea gardens and five-mile high mountain peaks, he was fascinated with spotting the Sputnik in the sky and was also one of a half dozen fortunate children who were offered hand-held mountaineering lessons by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, upon inauguration of the pioneeringHimalayan Mountaineering Institute by the governments of India and New Zealand in 1957. This started his lifelong fascination with science on the one hand and climbing mountains and trekking on the other, in addition to an addiction for tea. At one point in his formative years, he had seriously considered the profession of mountain climbing and much later in life, has been driven to explore the remote regions of western Tibet, the sources of the rivers Indus and Brahmaputra, the sacred mountain Kailas and lake Manasarovar. The Indo-China conflict over the disputed territory of Tibet and subsequent flight of Dalai Lama from Tibet into India brought serious conflicts in the mountain region, putting considerable stress in the civilian population. He relocated with family to the metropolitan mega-city of Calcutta in the early 1960s, where he received high school and university education. He was awarded a high school diploma in 1967 as a National Scholar, graduating from Ballygunge Government High School and was selected a National Science Talent Scholar in a nationwide competition. The high school had also previously graduated the internationally acclaimed Bengali film director Satyajit Ray, who along with another contemporary Bengali radical film director Ritwik Ghatak, had considerable influence on his young mind. It was in this high school, that he was the beneficiary of the gifted mentorship of the school’s legendary physics teacher, Pramatha Nath Patra.

Higher education and early career

Chattopadhyay completed his B.Sc. degree from Calcutta University in 1970, with Honors in Physics, graduating from St. Xavier’s College, a well known institution run by the earlyJesuit clergy in India, which also boasts of having graduated the famous Indian scientist Prof. Jagadish Chandra Bose and Indian steel tycoon Laxmi Mittal. Caught in the turmoil of the politically vibrant and active university community in the city of Calcutta in the state of West Bengal in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he circumvented a delayed prospect of admission into the university’s post-graduate program by joining the Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur, eighty miles south-west of Calcutta, for his post-graduate studies, completing his M.Sc. degree with specialization in Particle Physics in 1972. Hoping to combine his passion for physics with the desire to explore nature, and upon direct invitation from Prof. Michael Moravscik as Chair of the Physics Interview Committee of the American Physical Society, he then joined in 1972 the Physics department of the University of Oregon at Eugene in the Pacific Northwest region of USA, known for its rugged natural beauty. However, over time, the draw towards the larger, diverse and vibrant campus of the University of California at Berkeley got stronger and with direct support and recommendation from Prof. Rudy Hwa and Prof. Berndt Crasemann while working on research projects with them in the summers of 1973 and 1974, he joined the University of California at Berkeley in 1974, as a Ph.D. student in the Department of Physics. After flirting for two years (1974-1976) with the inimitable Berkeley brand of theoretical particle physics, then known as the “S-matrix” and “Bootstrap” theories of “strong interactions”, under tutelage of Prof. Geoffrey Chew, Chattopadhyay was attracted away by the eclectic and pragmatic charm of accelerator physics dealing with charged particle and light beams under mentorship of some of the most prominent accelerator pioneers in the original accelerator laboratory created by Ernest Orlando Lawrence at Berkeley, such as:Edward J. Lofgren, Andrew Sessler, Denis Keefe, L. Jackson Laslett and Glen Lambertson, to name a few. In 1978, he was also heavily influenced by the visit of Simon van der Meer and Carlo Rubbia to the laboratory, speaking on the possibilities of stochastic phase space cooling of antiproton beams and the exciting possibilities with proton-antiproton collisions. He was also simultaneously being encouraged by Prof. Owen Chamberlain, discoverer of the ‘antiproton’ and a Berkeley Nobel laureate, to engage in antiproton beam research. He subsequently completed his PhD dissertation on the timely and critical topic of stochastic cooling of bunched beams of antiproton from the University of California (Berkeley) Physics department in 1982 and continued onto CERN as an “attaché scientifique” in the Super Proton Antiproton Synchrotron working with Daniel Boussard, Simon van der Meer and Carlo Rubbia, contributing to the ongoing program of stochastic cooling of antiproton beams, which led to the discovery of the W and Z vector bosons at CERN, and to the early ideas of stochastic cooling of “bunched” beams, which today are being applied successfully to phase space cooling of heavy ions at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory, leading to exciting new investigations of the ‘quark-gluon’ plasma in gold-on-gold collisions.


Chattopadhyay returned to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in 1984, where he led and defined the accelerator physics of the Advanced Light Source (ALS) and contributed to the conceptual design of the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC), pioneered the accelerator physics which underpinned the Berkeley-Stanford asymmetric B-factory (PEP-II) for CP-violation studies, and initiated the Berkeley FEL/Femtosecond X-ray Source and Laser-Plasma Acceleration development. He was a Senior Scientist, aGuest Professor, and the Founder/Director of the Center for Beam Physics at Berkeley, until his move to Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in 2001 as the Associate Laboratory Director for Accelerators, after 25 years at the University of California and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. At Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, he made critical advancements in microwave superconducting linear accelerators leading the way to current and future grand instruments of science such as the high precision CEBAF and its 12 GeV upgrade for precision research in hadronic physics, Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, USA to advance neutron sciences and novel materials research, and the current superconducting version of the International Linear Collider, to name a few. His research at the Cockcroft Institute in UK included development of sources of “ultra-cold” relativistic free electron beams to advance coherent electron diffraction techniques; production of novel coherent and ultra-short pulses ofphotons (e.g. x-ray FELs); novel acceleration methods; investigation of photonic crystals and metamaterial structures for charged particle acceleration; novel high energy colliders; cavity search for “dark matter” and laboratory investigation of “dark energy” via atom interferometer techniques. Chattopadhyay is currently working for Fermilab andNorthern Illinois University (NIU) acting as a distinctive professor and director of accelerator research.[2] Having contributed to the conception, design, construction, commissioning and operation of numerous accelerators for particle and nuclear physics, photon and neutron sciences around the world, with significant research accomplishments in advanced particle and photon beam physics, and mentoring scientists around the world, in the developing nations in particular, in accelerator developments as a unifying global force among nations, Prof. Chattopadhyay is a frequently invited speaker and advisor at professional societies and government research agencies, serving on numerous editorial, advisory and review committees throughout the world.