U.S. Particle Accelerator School
U.S. Particle Accelerator School
Education in Beam Physics and Accelerator Technology

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Frequently Asked Questions

General USPAS FAQs

How many sessions do you offer each year?

We offer two sessions each year, one in June and one in January.

How do I apply?

Applications for the current session are available on our website.  Courses run in parallel so you may select one 2-week full course or two 1-week half courses.  You may request financial support on the Application Form; please include your CV/resume, one letter of recommendation and a cover letter explaining why the USPAS is important to your career. International students who are not already in the U.S. or not from a visa-waiver country must also send a copy of their visa. We will send you an acceptance packet when your Application Form is formally accepted.  The acceptance packet will include a confirmation letter, a university enrollment form/audit form, a web link to make your housing reservation, a payment form (if applicable) and some general program information.

How do you decide which courses to offer?

The USPAS Director selects courses with input from the USPAS Director's Advisory Council and the Curriculum Sub-Committee. The USPAS posts course offerings at least 6 months in advance of our sessions. While we cannot promise timing of specific courses, some rough guidelines for established courses are as follows:

Every Session:
"Fundamentals of Accelerator Physics and Technology with Simulations and Measurements Lab" (undergraduate level)
"Accelerator Physics" or "Advanced Accelerator Physics" (graduate level)

Every Year and a Half:
"Microwave Measurements and Beam Instrumentation Lab"
"Classical Mechanics and Electromagnetism for Accelerators"

Every 2-4 Years:
All other courses

USPAS also frequently offers specialty courses to take advantage of special interests, regional facilities, and opportunities with specific expert instructors. Some of these courses are not repeated.

How do you select instructors?

The USPAS Director selects instructors with the input of the USPAS Director's Advisory Council and the Curriculum Sub-Committee. Instructors are selected from well-known experts in the topics they teach. Due to the load of teaching at an intensive school, courses are typically taught by a team of two or more instructors working together often with a grader or teaching assistant. Some teams teach regularly at the USPAS.

How do I suggest a course?

You may send in course or faculty suggestions at any time. Please send them to uspas@fnal.gov.  Also, all USPAS courses are reviewed and enrolled students have the opportunity to suggest classes they would like to see in future sessions when evaluating their course. 

May international participants attend your program?

Yes. Our program is open to both U.S. and international participants. See also the International Participants FAQs below.

May I attend only a single one-week class?

Students who do not receive financial support from the USPAS may choose to attend one week or both weeks of the session at their discretion.  Students residing in the U.S. who receive financial support from the USPAS must enroll in their courses for credit.  If the hosting university will award credit for a one-week course then students are permitted to receive financial support and attend a single one-week course. If, however, the hosting university will not award credit for a single one-week course, students must attend both weeks of the session to qualify for financial support. International scholarship students may attend only one 1-week course.

How and when do I pay my Registration Fee?

After you have been accepted to attend the session, we will send you a Payment Form with instructions for paying your fee.

How do you decide which hotel to use?

To be considered, a hotel must first respond positively to a general solicitation. There are many criteria used to determine which hotel is selected for each USPAS session. The hotel must have enough sleeping rooms for our participants and must have enough meeting room space for our classes, labs, meals and study. Cost of the sleeping rooms and meals is an important consideration. Location including proximity to accelerator centers and local transportation options plays a role as well. Because class and study hours are long in our intensive school sessions and all classes share the Computer Lab, Study and dining rooms, we find that sessions function better if we keep the entire group of students and instructors together. We also believe that networking and discussions between instructors and students, and between students themselves, is a very important part of the USPAS. For all of those reasons we do our best to avoid splitting classes or sleeping rooms among multiple hotels.

Why don't you hold classes on campus or use dorms?

Our winter session coincides with academic terms at most universities so it is not generally possible to find university classroom space or dormitory rooms in the winter. It is occasionally possible for the summer session to be held on university campuses and employ dormitories. However past experience has shown us that it is not always the best option for a multitude of reasons ranging from typical university summer maintenance/construction schedules, lack of parking, safety concerns since our Study and Labs are open until midnight, inadequate or too spread-out facilities and lack of air conditioning. We have also found that dorm rooms are generally not cheaper than asking students to share hotel rooms and dormitories often open complications with students needing to pack essentials (bed linens etc).  Over the years we have found that it is preferable to have the entire program located within a single hotel/conference facility.

Which meals are included?

We provide 12 breakfasts and 12 dinners (i.e. each day of the program including the weekend).  Lunch is not provided, but there will generally be food vendors nearby that students may choose to use.

Will you provide email access? Should I bring my laptop?

The "General Information" sheet distributed for each session provides the specifics for that particular program. We always arrange for internet access in our Computer Lab and participants may use those computers when class is not scheduled. You are also encouraged to bring a laptop or tablet computer; however, it is not required unless explicitly stated in the course description.  The USPAS tries (no guarantee) to provide network/wifi access in our classrooms; the USPAS cannot pay any internet charges billed to your sleeping room.

Can you recommend some good textbooks?

Textbooks that have been used in past USPAS courses are listed in Books Used in USPAS Courses. USPAS generally provides one textbook per class selected at the instructors’ discretion.  Archived Course Materials also can provide a wealth of information on topics of interest.

Is it possible for me to get the materials from a recent USPAS course?

Materials from past courses are located on our Course Materials web page. This includes both materials archived on our website and links to web sites maintained by instructors.  Note that not all instructors choose to post their materials.   

What supplies should I bring to class?

We will provide you with paper and pencils. You should bring a scientific calculator (or laptop). Bringing a laptop or tablet is recommended. Please read your course description for any special requirements.

Do only graduate students attend your classes?

In a typical session, roughly one third of our participants have their PhD, one third are graduate students and the final third is a mix of undergrad's, associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees.

Do you offer on-line courses?

We do not offer on-line courses. Course Materials for some courses are available on our website and can be studied independently or in advance of USPAS attendance to better prepare.  Interestingly, student evaluations gathered systematically over a 4-year period show an overwhelming preference for standard format classes with instructors, organized homework, and interactions with fellow students and instructors.  Therefore, we have no intention to offer fully online courses. Instructors are being encouraged to develop and maintain course web sites with "augmentations" that include: notes beyond the scope of what can be covered in class, extra examples, designs, programs and program input, etc. These are intended to be community resources for further education.

How can I best prepare for USPAS?

The full two-week session of USPAS is regarded as equivalent to a three semester hour course in a standard university, which corresponds to roughly 45 hours of classroom engagement. In USPAS we typically go well beyond this 45 hours of engagement and the experience can be intense when compressed into two weeks.  Therefore, it is important to carefully read the course descriptions and make sure you are comfortable with your preparation and that you satisfy needed prerequisites.  Also, students are encouraged to look at previous versions of courses archived on our web site (see Course Materials) and study in advance.  If needed, contact with instructors for advice on suitability and preparation can be made via the USPAS Office. Limited tutorials are also available on our website for introductions and background on a variety of topics.

Financial Support FAQs

What type of financial support is available?

Students may request full financial support which covers the Registration Fee (includes course materials, textbook, breakfast and dinner each day of the program, etc) and a shared hotel room (shared with another student). Partial scholarships are also available.  Financial support is limited and is usually restricted to matriculating graduate students or postdocs within 5 years of graduation.

How do I request financial support?

There is a section on each Application Form where you may request financial support. A total of four documents must be submitted to be considered:

  1. the Application Form

  2. a cover letter explaining why the USPAS is important to your career and describing prior research experience or work with or as a user of particle accelerators;

  3. your CV;

  4. at least one letter of recommendation.

The supporting documents may be emailed, faxed, or sent via postal mail to the USPAS Office.

If I receive financial support from the USPAS, must I take my course for a grade and/or university credit?

To receive financial support from the USPAS students residing in the U.S. must participate fully by enrolling in your course(s) for university credit.  Failure to do so may result in forfeiture of financial support. Students living outside the U.S. are not eligible for host university credit but must take their course for a grade.

May international participants request financial support?

Yes. While students living outside the U.S. are not eligible to enroll for host university credit, to be eligible for a scholarship they must agree to have their performance graded. This includes turning in all homework and projects and taking all exams. Additionally, if you are not from a U.S. visa-waiver country then you must already be in possession of a valid visa and provide a copy to us.

I am an employee at a national laboratory, may I request financial support?

Financial support is limited and is usually restricted to matriculating graduate students and postdocs within 5 years of graduation. Institutions that are part of the collaboration supporting the USPAS, which includes most national labs, are generally expected to support their employees seeking training at the USPAS. Issues with support should be brought up with the Director’s Advisory Council member representing their institute.

Does the USPAS provide funds for travel expenses?

Except for students receiving a Sekazi K. Mtingwa Scholarship, we cannot provide funding for air tickets or other travel expenses.  Prospective students should search for other funding sources early including possible university programs, research groups, laboratories, etc.

International Participants FAQs

May international participants attend your program?

Yes. Our program is open to both U.S. and international participants.

What type of visa should I request?

If you are not already in the U.S., then you will be joining our program as a not-for-credit participant and therefore we believe that a B1 visa or admission under the visa wavier program is appropriate.

May international participants request financial support?

Yes. You must submit the documents as described for domestic students above (see FAQ on Financial Support). Additionally, if you not from a U.S. visa-waiver country then you must already be in possession of a valid visa and provide us with a copy.

Please be aware that the USPAS cannot provide any funds for travel. While they may not be eligible to enroll at the host university, international participants receiving financial support from the USPAS are required to participate fully. This includes turning in all homework and projects and taking all exams.

As an international participant, may I enroll for credit at the host university?

International participants may not enroll for credit unless they hold a currently valid student visa and have the permission of their U.S. university.

University-Related FAQs

How do you decide which university will host each session?

We select major research universities to host our sessions and convey academic credit for our courses. Typically, the host university will have a strong faculty group in some aspect of accelerator-based science (such as high-energy or nuclear physics or synchrotron radiation science). We give strong consideration to universities with educational programs in accelerator science or with accelerator facilities on campus that could be used in hands-on courses. We also favor universities that have strong links with the members of the USPAS Advisory Council.

Am I required to take my course for credit?

If you are not receiving financial support from the USPAS, you may take your course for university credit or choose to audit. If you are receiving financial support from the USPAS and are eligible to receive credit, then you must take your course for credit.

Am I required to take my course for credit even if I don't need the credit?

Students not receiving USPAS scholarship funds can enroll in courses for credit or for audit at their discretion. Students who are receiving financial support from the USPAS and are eligible for credit, must take their courses for credit. While they may not be eligible to enroll at the host university due to visa restrictions, international participants who receive financial support are expected to participate at the same level of effort as for-credit participants. 

How do I transfer the credit to my home university?

Procedures depend on your home university. It is approached as transferring credit from the university hosting the USPAS session. You will need to investigate procedures for approval and transfer of specific course credit. We can provide you with access to transcripts and the course syllabus which is sufficient in many cases.

When will I know my grade?

Approximately one or two months after the session is over, the USPAS and the host university will send you a letter. This letter will tell you your grade and any additional information you may need when ordering transcripts. If you need to know your grade earlier, please contact the USPAS Office.

USPAS/Indiana University Master's in Beam Physics & Technology FAQs

How does this program work?

First you must complete an IU Online Admissions Application and be accepted by Indiana University. After you are formally enrolled at Indiana University, when you come to USPAS sessions twice per year and for courses successfully completed, you will directly earn Indiana University credit instead of earning host university credit. If the student is physically at Indiana University, IU courses can also be taken towards meeting requirements. The program also includes a Master's thesis (3 to 9 credit hours) which must be successfully defended. Detailed information can be found on our website: IU/USPAS Master's Degree Program.

How many credits will I need to earn this degree?

30 semester hours of IU credit with a grade point average of B or above are required.

Over the years I have attended five USPAS courses. Can I transfer all of that credit to Indiana University towards this degree

You are allowed to transfer in up to 8 credits earned within 5 years of the transfer. Your previous USPAS courses most likely earned 3 semester hours of credit per session. This means that you may be able to transfer credits from classes for up to 2 previous USPAS sessions (3 credits each) taken within 5 years. If the credit to be transferred was awarded more than 5 years ago, then you must petition Indiana University to potentially have the credit reinstated to be applicable.

How long will it take me to complete the degree?
Generally, students may finish in 3 years. The maximum completion time allowed is 5 years from enrollment date. Limited extensions may be possible in some circumstances. 
I am an international student; may I apply to this program?

At this time, Indiana University is unable to accept international students living outside the U.S. into this program.  Applicants must already be living in the U.S.

What is the cost?

IU's nonrefundable application fee is $55.00 and their cost per credit hour for this program is $150.00. USPAS registration fees for each session must also be paid.

How do I apply?

To apply for this program please complete an IU Online Admissions Application. Send a copy of your undergraduate transcripts and provide three letters of recommendation. Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores are strongly recommended. It is very important that you indicate in the "statement of purpose" and in the "student comments section" that the distance M.S. in Beam Physics is desired. Applications may be submitted any time, but they should arrive before October 1 to ensure the ability to register and receive credit for courses taken after Jan 1. IU's "How to Apply" instructions

Does USPAS financial support cover the Indiana University tuition?

No. The USPAS cannot pay the tuition owed to Indiana University for this degree.

Does USPAS pay travel costs for IU Master’s program students to attend USPAS sessions?

No, but students may apply for USPAS scholarship support (generally covering registration + shared housing).


USPAS Prize for Achievement in Accelerator Science & Technology FAQs

What can you tell me about this prize?

The USPAS prize honors individuals by recognizing their outstanding achievements over the full range of accelerator science and technology. The prizes are awarded every three years to three individuals.  One of the prizes will be awarded to an “early-achievement” of a scientist or engineer made within 15 years of their last degree, and the other two prizes will be awarded in the "general" category.  The prizes are awarded on a competitive basis without bias to race, ethnicity, age, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin or religion.

How is the Prize Committee selected?

The USPAS Director appoints the Prize Committee Chair who in turn appoints their committee members who select the recipient from nominations received.

May I submit a nomination package electronically or must I submit a hard copy?

You may submit nominations by email to the USPAS Office.

What should be included in the nomination package?

Nominations should include the name, institution and CV of the nominee, a description of accomplishments with supporting documents and suggested award citation, and up to three letters of support in addition to the nominating letter. Nominating letters may have multiple signatures.

What criteria does the Committee use when choosing the USPAS prize recipient?

Nominees are evaluated in these categories:

  1. Quality, impact and number of scientific/technical contributions to the field.
  2. Realization of concepts in working accelerators; leadership and vision in machine building; putting concepts into practice.
  3. Level of impact: degree to which concepts have led to the production of more or better science or has the potential for doing so in the future.
  4. Other factors, especially teaching/encouragement/stimulation of young scientists and engineers.
How long do you keep a nomination on file?

Nominations are kept for 2 prize cycles. Expired nominations may be renewed at the discretion of the nominator.  Early achievement nominations where the nominee advances beyond 15 years of their last degree will be evaluated in the general category. 

Where can I find out more about the USPAS prize?

More details can be found here on the USPAS website: USPAS Prize.