Meet the Director: Andrew Hutton

Director of the CEBAF user facility Andrew Hutton’s love for accelerators started at age 17.

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Andrew Hutton, associate director of Jefferson Lab’s Accelerator Division, looks over prototype particle accelerating devices – called cavities – in the lab’s Superconducting Radiofrequency Institute.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Dept. of Energy's Jefferson Lab.

Andrew Hutton, associate director of Jefferson Lab's Accelerator Division, looks over prototype particle accelerating devices – called cavities – in the lab's Superconducting Radiofrequency Institute.

This is a series of profiles on the directors of the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facilities. These are the scientists who lead a variety of research institutions that provide researchers with the most advanced tools of modern science including accelerators, colliders, supercomputers, light sources and neutron sources, as well as facilities for studying the nano world, the environment, and the atmosphere.

Meet the director:

"There are not many people who are still doing what they actually went to school for,” muses Andrew Hutton. But from the age of 17 when he visited a local cancer research institute and "got to play with their accelerator,” Hutton has been stuck on accelerators, taking him from his native England to many countries and many opportunities.

Hutton is the associate director of the Accelerator Division at the Thomas Jefferson National Laboratory in Newport News, Virginia. As head of the Accelerator Division, Hutton supervises operating and maintaining the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF). It's a job he has been working towards – on a plethora of particle accelerators – his entire life.

The director's background:

Before starting his undergraduate studies at England's Cambridge University, Hutton had a chance to go to America and work at the New York City Presbyterian Hospital. "Still don't know why my mother let me go,” says Hutton. "I was there seven months on my own, 18 just turning 19. Then I did my undergrad at Cambridge. My first vacation I spent at the MD Anderson hospital in Houston calibrating a betatron [a type of accelerator – a machine that used electromagnetic fields to propel charged particles at almost light speed for medical treatments and physics research – Ed.]. The next year I was at the Rutherford lab in England; then after graduation, I went straight into a summer program at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear ResearchExternal link).”

Hutton chose to do his Ph.D. at the University of London, working at the Institute of Cancer Research on a smaller accelerator that he helped to build. He moved to Bologna, Italy for five years, installing an accelerator for radiation chemistry in a brand new lab, the National Research Council FRAE.

"By then,” recalls Hutton, "I had touched every single part of an accelerator. So I managed to get the best job in the world – I was part of the design team for the biggest machine in the world, the LEP – Large Electron Positron ColliderExternal link – at CERN.” The LEP was and still is the largest electron-positron collider ever built with a 27-kilometer circumference. It was commissioned in 1989 and closed after 11 years of research when construction began on the Large Hadron Collider.

When the LEP design was done, Hutton went to California to the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and worked on the Stanford Linear Collider. Then he headed the design study for the PEP-II facility (a collaboration of Stanford, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory), all before joining Jefferson Lab.

"From all of that, I love accelerators; I have been spending my life working with them and am still having fun,” says Hutton.

The Facility:

CEBAF – the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility – is a superconducting recirculating linear acceleratorExternal link, currently delivering up to 12 GeV electrons to four different experimental halls simultaneously. The Accelerator  

The twelve GeV electrons or twelve billion electron volts power of the CEBAF is a voltage equivalent to eight billion AA batteries stacked one on top of the other. The height of the stack of batteries would be about twice the diameter of the Earth.

Division has approximately 150 people with an additional 50 providing support from the engineering division. CEBAF's 1,480 users are primarily from the southeastern U.S. with a large international contingent; the biggest groups are from France, Italy, and Japan. The total area of the CEBAF tunnel and the four end stations or experimental halls is 205,960 square feet.

"We are unique; in Europe, a decade ago, they decided not to compete [with the facility], so they send experiments to us. We actually have no competition whatsoever,” says Hutton. "People around the world want to come here, so it never gets boring. Each experiment has a unique requirement. Developing that and staying ahead is what makes it interesting.”

It takes a big-time commitment to use the accelerator; there is already over a five year back-log of researchers lined up to run their experiments. A great deal of time is required to get the proposals in and approved, then prepare for and get the experiments on the floor. One standard requirement for all CEBAF users is that s/he has to stand shifts at the facility during the experiment run in order for her/his name to be on a paper written from the data results. So at some stage, all users come through the facility while the analyses of the collected data are done at their home institutions.

An experiment runs anywhere from one month to a year and a half, but averages three months. About 85% of users come from universities world-wide, with the remainder from DOE national laboratories.

Typical day:

"I have 23 different nationalities on my staff. And I really like that,” says Hutton. "Somehow we are all here because this work really excites us. If you visited us, you would say, wow - everyone really loves their job.”

Jefferson Lab is known for its biennial open houseExternal link. "We invite the public. And 12,000 people come. My particular favorite tour – I've done it twice – was leading a group of deaf and hard of hearing people. It is exhausting. Most of them don't have the opportunity to come to a facility like this and so they have many questions to ask and ask away they do.

"I have an active, positive belief that when young people can actually see the research facility, it changes lives,” says Hutton. "It changed mine.

"I arrived here 23 years ago to commission the accelerator and head up operations. And now I head up the accelerator. I still manage to keep doing science - that is important to me. That is why I do this job.”

Typical experiment:

The GlueX ExperimentExternal link is designed to discover what holds quarks – the subatomic particles that are a fundamental part of matter - together. "We are studying the meson which is a kind of composite particle made up of one quark and one antiquark. I like to think of this experiment as a piano string with a quark at either end,” explains Hutton, "and we ping the string to try to understand the frequencies that it resonates at. From that info, we hope to understand the force that actually holds the quarks together.”

Best advice for a future director at the CEBAF:

"I spend time with every single individual that works for me – finding out what they did before, what their interests are, where they see their futures. I then find something that matches their interests. So I don't actually have to manage anybody,” says Hutton. "The staff have different skills and aptitudes and my job as facility director is to maximize the effectiveness of what we do by utilizing all of those skills and aptitudes.”

In Fiscal Year 2015, the CEBAF and the other twenty-six user facilities welcomed over 32,000 researchers - from academic, industry, and government laboratories in all fifty states and the District of Columbia – to perform new scientific research. For details on the Office of Science User Facilities, go to: http://science.energy.gov/user-facilities/.


Please go to Profiles of User Facilities Directors to read more articles on the directors for the Office of Science user facilities.

The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic energy research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information please visit http://science.energy.gov.

Sandra Allen McLean is a Communications Specialist in the Office of Science, sandra.mclean@science.doe.gov.

Last modified: 5/23/2017 1:40:11 PM