A champion of the Tevatron
A premier science group selected former Fermilab director John Peoples for its top honor: the American Physical Society's Division of Particles and Fields 2010 Robert R. Wilson Prize.
The award recognizes outstanding achievement in the physics of particle accelerators and was named to honor Fermilab's first director, Robert Wilson. For Peoples, that makes the award even more special because he worked with Wilson and helped keep alive his dream of reaching the energy frontier.
Peoples shepherded the development of many key aspects of Fermilab's collider program in a variety of ways from 1972 to 1999: as designer, project manager, laboratory director and advocate for funding. He has a knack for reviving flagging projects, recognizing good ideas that extend physics output, finding the right people to build them and rallying Congressional and funding agency support around those projects.
Peoples' guidance allowed Fermilab's Tevatron, the world's most productive proton-antiproton collider, to continue to ramp up luminosity to more than 300 times its initial design, putting discoveries such as the top quark, and potentially the Higgs boson, within reach.
The award committee cited Peoples "For critical and enduring efforts in making the Tevatron Collider the outstanding high energy physics accelerator of the last two decades."
He credits numerous current and past Fermilab employees with having the creativity to find ways to make a leap forward every time it seemed the research machines had reached a plateau.
"The Tevatron was very well designed and had the potential when I took over," Peoples said. "People here have just done a terrific job. My contribution was to push projects and convince DOE you can do it."
The electrical engineer turned Cornell University particle physics professor began his Fermilab journey by working off and on from 1972 to 1980 on the Tevatron's predecessor, the Main Ring, as proton lab director and later Fermilab Research Director.
His proudest accomplishment came from building the Antiproton Source, which began operation in 1985, enabling Fermilab to shift from a fixed-target proton accelerator program to the Tevatron proton-antiproton collider program. That source eventually became the most intense, consistent source of antiprotons in the world, and enabled proton-antiproton research in the TeV energy range.
Around the same time, Peoples served as project director for the initial Tevatron construction, which included converting the Main Ring for collisions, building the CDF and DZero detector halls and building the Antiproton Source.
Later as laboratory director, he pushed for funding of upgrades to the accelerator complexes' Linac and Booster, improving the energy reach, as well as adding improvements that made the particle beams smaller at the detector collision points, an idea he had toyed with since 1985. Combined these improvements resulted in 15 to 20 times more particle collisions for study.
Just as it seemed the Tevatron had reached its maximum output, the construction of a Recycler antiproton storage ring came online in 1996, offering additional stochastic cooling as well as electron cooling. Its construction allowed for the optimization of the Antiproton Source's Accumulator, leading to an increase in collision rates by another factor of four.
The completion of the Main Injector in 1999 increased beam current, reliability and cycling rate. The number of collisions created and observed improved by a factor of five, extending the physics reach to higher masses and rarer particles.
"I feel like I accomplished what I wanted to do," Peoples said. "I like accelerators more than anything else and the thing I'm most proud of at Fermilab is building the Antiproton Source. The next is guiding the Tevatron along the basic luminosity progress. Being around during all these improvements was a lot of work, but it was also terribly exciting."
— Tona Kunz