July 12 Persis Drell Public Lecture

A Billion Times Brighter – The Linac Coherent Light Source at SLAC

Paepcke Auditorium
6:00 pm

Speaker – Persis Drell, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Stanford University

Persis S. Drell is Professor and Director at SLAC. She received her B.A. in mathematics and physics from Wellesley College in 1977. She received her PhD in atomic physics from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1983. She then switched to high-energy experimental physics and worked as a postdoctoral scientist with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She joined the faculty of the Physics Department at Cornell University in 1988. In 2000, she became head of the Cornell high-energy group; in 2001, she was named deputy director of Cornell's Laboratory of Nuclear Studies. In 2002, Dr. Drell accepted a position as Professor and Director of Research at SLAC. Her current research activities are in particle astrophysics. In 2007 she was named Director at SLAC.

Dr. Drell has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award. She is a fellow of the American Physical Society, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2010 she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Drell is the recipient of numerous other awards and has served on a variety of advisory committees concerned with national research, facilities, and physics funding priorities.

Her recent activities include serving on COSEPUP/BPA for the 2004 publication, Setting Priorities for NSF-Sponsored Large Research Facilities for the National Academy of Sciences, and chairing the HEPAP subcommittee that produced the Quantum Universe report in 2004. In spring of 2006 she was the Morris Loeb Lecturer in Physics at Harvard University, and in winter of 2011 Dr. Drell was the Occam Lecturer at Merton College, Oxford.


The Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), built on the legacy of the Stanford Linear Accelerator, is the world’s brightest source of hard X-ray laser light, a billion times brighter than any previous source of hard X-rays in existence. Like an ultra-fast, ultra-bright strobe, the LCLS opens new doors on atomic and molecular structure and dynamics, at very high resolution and on extremely short time scales. Experiments using the LCLS are illuminating the formation and breaking of chemical bonds at the atomic level, showing how materials work on the quantum level, and revealing the structures of key biological molecules and viruses.

This talk will focus on the conception, construction, and start up of the LCLS, as well as some of the first experimental results, with a view to the new frontier of science that this remarkable tool has enabled. This scientific and technical achievement will be set against the backdrop of the evolution of a National Laboratory, SLAC, which has reinvented itself and its science in the delivery of this new facility.