Today at Berkeley Lab

Fund Commemorates ATAP Scientist’s Passion; Will Support Young Researchers

— By Keri Troutman

MSZismanA Senior Scientist with ATAP’s Center for Beam Physics and a Fellow of the American Physical Society, Michael Zisman was passionate about accelerator science. And he generously shared his passion through his energetic and heartfelt commitment to mentoring young scientists.

Even throughout a difficult illness, Zisman considered his time at work to be precious, and it gave him strength to keep fighting, says his wife, Andrea Chan. After Zisman passed away last August, his family set up a fund in his name to further his passion of not only caring deeply about the science, but also about the people who make those scientific achievements possible.

“’The Lab, and later on in his career the Lab’s accelerator group, gave Mike so much ever since his graduate student days,” says Chan. “This fund continues his legacy of mentoring young accelerator scientists at the Lab.”

Zisman was well known at Berkeley Lab and around the world as a designer and builder of high-energy accelerators. His career at the Lab began in the 1970s, when he worked at the 88-inch Cyclotron, SuperHILAC, and Bevalac, developing his interest in accelerator physics. In the 1980s he was instrumental in developing an accelerator physics design code that has been used widely in the U.S. and abroad for the design of electron storage rings, including the Advanced Light Source. He led PEP-II Conceptual and Technical Design Reports (an accelerator at SLAC constructed in collaboration with SLAC, Berkeley Lab and Livermore Lab) and subsequently became system manager for its new Low-Energy Ring, leading it through development to its 1998 commissioning. Zisman also served as spokesperson and project manager for the DOE’s Neutrino Factory and Muon Collider Collaboration.

In recent years he helped establish the Accelerator Stewardship Program at the Department of Energy’s Office of High Energy Physics. This program supports fundamental accelerator science and technology development, and disseminates accelerator knowledge and training to the broad community of accelerator builders and users.

In 2010, Zisman was asked to work in the Office of High Energy Physics with the assignment of making the stewardship program a reality. He worked tirelessly to organize this effort, and finally, in 2014, the program funded its first substantial programs, in designs for lightweight gantries for hadron beam therapy and in technologies towards high average and peak power lasers.

“Mike liked to say ‘how lucky we are to get paid for what we love to do’ when he talked about working in science,” says Chan.

“Throughout his career, when Mike dove into something he really dove into something,” says ATAP Director Wim Leemans, who knew Zisman for 25 years. “Everything was really done to perfection and he thought deeply about all the angles, not just the scientific but the managerial and political.”

Leemans says the fund is a fantastic opportunity for his division, especially given that ATAP is currently a very young division, with about 20 postdocs and many early career scientists. “I’d like to see the money go towards the things that Mike was passionate about—sending young people to conferences and giving them training, as it would be a beautiful testimonial to the memory of his contributions.”

Chan says that when she approached Berkeley Lab with the idea of doing something in Zisman’s memory, she was directed to the Berkeley Lab Foundation, and she worked with Ivy Clift, President of Berkeley Lab Foundation, to develop the fund.

“Berkeley Lab Foundation is honored to be part of the remembrance of such an accomplished scientist and admired colleague,” says Clift. “ It was a pleasure to work with Ms. Chan and Dr. Leemans to determine how the fund should be set up to be most useful for young scientists.”

The fund was established with an initial $15,000 installment, which will be spent each year to fund ATAP postdoc activities. Zisman’s family hopes to renew and grow the fund each year.

“Throughout his career, Mike was always investing in the people who do the science, promoting care for one another,” says Chan. “We want that passion for young people in science to continue; I think it’s something that would make him smile.”