It is a cool Tuesday afternoon in early October. In the shadow of the Jura mountains north of Geneva lies a hotel, where seventy students at the beginning of their accelerator physics careers are attending the CERN Accelerator School (CAS). They are joined by experts from various international accelerators who lecture, share their expertise and network with the students. This particular course, Introduction to Accelerator Physics, is CAS’s first residential course since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The school began in 1983, with a mandate of “assembling and disseminating knowledge on accelerator science”. Hermann Schmickler, the current CAS director, explained that this mandate refers to “the theoretical aspects of beam dynamics, but also the technologies involved in building an accelerator and the various types of accelerators that exist around the world: colliders, synchrotrons, light sources and accelerators for medical applications”.
In the centre of the Introduction to Accelerator Physics conference room stands a video camera, which betrays the beginning of an ambitious new project from the CAS team: CASopedia. Its aim is to record and catalogue all CAS lectures and to release all the content in open access on the CAS website – helpful not only to those who have been unable to attend an in-person course, but also to those who may wish to refresh their knowledge. Some institutions have also already expressed an interest in using the CASopedia footage as teaching material.
Schmickler explained that the team is planning to record every lecture on every course for the next five years, resulting in over 1600 hours of footage. “But listening attentively to a one-hour course if you are looking for specific information could be very frustrating”. Instead, CAS intends to sort the videos in a searchable video encyclopaedia (hence the name). Searching keywords in the database will provide targeted five to ten-minute-long video explanations from accelerator physics experts.
CASopedia is only one of many recent CAS developments. For instance, the introductory course was completely reviewed in 2018 by expert accelerator physicists, who will meet regularly to review the other courses. “This is like quality assurance”, adds Schmickler.
Furthermore, before the pandemic, CAS started increasing the frequency of its courses throughout the year. Two general courses (a yearly introductory course and an advanced course every other year) and up to four specialist courses. However, during the pandemic, only two online courses took place. These had high attendance but, as the effects of the pandemic lessen, more residential courses are scheduled for next year in various venues across Europe.