Berkeley Lab

In Memory of Dr. Michael S. Zisman, 1944-2015

Michael S. Zisman Our friend and colleague Mike Zisman passed away in the early morning of 30 August 2015 following a lengthy illness. He was 71. Mike is survived by his wife, Andrea, daughter, Nia, sons Matt and Tim, and grandchildren Jacob, Sam, Adam, Arielle, and Zachary.

A Senior Scientist with ATAP’s Center for Beam Physics and a Fellow of the American Physical Society, Mike was well known at Berkeley Lab and around the world as a designer and builder of high-energy accelerators. His energy and drive will be greatly missed.

In 1966, after receiving his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, Mike began graduate study in nuclear chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, and worked at Berkeley Lab’s 88-inch Cyclotron. He earned his PhD in chemistry in 1972. Following a postdoctoral appointment at the University of Washington, he rejoined Berkeley Lab in 1974 as a member of scientific staff.

As he worked at the 88-inch Cyclotron, SuperHILAC, and Bevalac, Mike developed his interest in accelerator physics. It was a propitious time to enter that field. The late 1970s and early 1980s were the origin of the Superconducting Super Collider, the most ambitious project in the history of high-energy physics. Berkeley Lab hosted its Central Design Group; Mike joined this effort as a member of the Exploratory Studies Group, now known as the Center for Beam Physics.

During the mid-1980s, Mike’s interests turned toward a much different challenge that had taken on great scientific importance: a third generation of synchrotron-light sources based on low-emittance electron storage rings. LBNL proposed a facility that would be in the vanguard of the third-generation light sources. It became apparent that the photon-beam performance demanded by their users depended heavily on understanding complex collective effects that dominated the electron-beam behavior. Mike and colleagues developed the accelerator physics design code ZAP, which quantified all of these effects and has been used widely in the U.S. and abroad for the design of electron storage rings. He also coordinated the Conceptual Design Report, a key document in building upon these ideas to create what is now known as the Advanced Light Source: a Department of Energy user facility that today serves more than 2000 researchers a year from across the physical and life sciences.

As the decade ended, Mike brought his expertise in highly demanding electron rings back to high-energy physics. Pier Oddone, then director of Berkeley Lab’s Physics Division, had put forth an idea for an “energy-asymmetric” electron-positron collider with which to explore charge-parity violation in the beauty sector by creating and studying the decay of B mesons. This collider addressed one of the most fundamental puzzles in physics: why is there far more matter than antimatter in the universe?

Their team convinced the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center that the high-energy ring of the earlier Positron-Electron Project would make SLAC an ideal location for this B-meson “factory.” Mike led the production of the PEP-II Conceptual and Technical Design Reports in 1991 through 1993 and subsequently became System Manager for its new Low-Energy Ring. In that capacity, he led the Low-Energy Ring’s development through its 1998 commissioning. PEP-II became the highest-luminosity e+e collider in the world until it was surpassed by the KEKB collider in Japan.

Following his work on B-factories, Mike became fascinated by the challenges of developing neutrino factories and muon colliders — accelerators with tantalizing possibilities for addressing fundamental questions in physics if only they could be built — eventually rising to the position of the Collaboration Spokesperson and DOE Project Manager. One of the most vexing technical challenges that Mike worked on is cooling the muon beams to achieve the small final emittances that are necessary for a muon collider. This is the subject of MICE (Muon Ionization-Cooling Experiment), a dedicated experiment to demonstrate ionization cooling and the associated accelerator technology. In 2001, he became a member of the ad hoc Steering Group of MICE and served as its Deputy Spokesperson. Assembly and testing of MICE is currently being completed at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK as part of an international collaboration. These efforts have made substantial progress towards a feasibility demonstration and first cost estimate for a high-energy muon-antimuon collider.

In the course of Mike’s career, accelerators had become vital infrastructure not only for many areas of scientific research but also for numerous applied fields, including medical therapy with protons, heavy ions, and x- and gamma rays; production of medical isotopes; and industrial materials processing. 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, Mike was asked to work in the Office of High Energy Physics with the assignment of making the stewardship program a reality. Detailed to DOE, Mike accepted this responsibility with his usual energy and enthusiasm. The program chose to focus on three areas: ion beam therapy, laser technology, and accelerator applications to energy and environment. Mike 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. Establishing a new government program in the current scientific funding environment was a tribute to Mike’s patience, skill, and tenacity.

Those of us who worked with Mike will miss his combination of technical acumen, professional drive, and humanity: the master of arcane detail who usually found a way to end a presentation with an on-point cartoon; the hard driver in the Lawrence tradition who referred to his role in the MICE collaboration as “Deputy Spokesmouse.” Though he was taken from us too soon, the Accelerator Stewardship Program is a fitting legacy, establishing a formal basis of support for the critically important field to which he had devoted his career.

The many people who knew Mike are invited to share their memories at this online memorial.