The Advanced Photon Source
a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science User Facility

Laura Boon’s accelerator experience moves beyond the Advanced Photon Source

From an electron to ion accelerator

Technical Facilities and Systems Specialist Laura Boon is applying the skills from her experience working on the Advanced Photon Source Upgrade across Argonne’s campus.

Headshot of woman smiling.

As a Ph.D. student studying accelerator physics at Purdue University, Laura Boon crossed the border from Indiana to Illinois to conduct research at a facility that she would later come to work at. That facility is the Advanced Photon Source (APS) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory. The APS is a DOE Office of Science User Facility.

Originally an astronomy major at Case Western Reserve University, Boon ended up switching to physics because she felt it was more hands-on. She found physics to be a different type of challenge and that challenge drew her to particle accelerators.

During her time as a graduate student at the APS, Boon calculated heating on the first superconducting undulator magnet installed at the APS. After completing her doctorate, Boon worked at DOE’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and a private company where she honed her skills in hardware engineering. Then in 2018, Boon and her family headed back to the very place she spent time during her doctorate program, the APS. They packed up and headed back to Illinois.

I enjoy that my work brings me something different every day. Right now, I am tackling new day-to-day challenges and learning new ways to solve them.” Laura Boon, technical facilities and systems specialist, Argonne National Laboratory

During her postdoc tenure, Boon worked across various teams in the Magnetic Devices group and on measurements for magnets for a planned comprehensive upgrade to the APS, one that would require a one-year pause in operations. 

Returning to the APS after 4 years, the building looked the same, but there was a new energy around the facility in anticipation of the shutdown and upgrade,” said Boon.

The APS has recently gone through that shutdown and emerged as a greatly enhanced facility. The extensive project replaced the original storage ring with new, state-of-the-art magnet systems, which will increase the brightness of the facility’s X-ray beams by up to 500 times.

Now a technical facilities and systems specialist, Boon helped prepare for the APS Upgrade in numerous ways. She had her hand in important review processes across the facility, including restarting the linear accelerator, booster and storage ring. She also wrote important safety documentation that outlined the conditions and systems needed to operate the new machine and how to verify those safety systems are operating.

This documentation was a critical component to start commissioning of the new machine. To help employees across the facility coordinate work happening during the shutdown, Boon generated and coordinated the Plan of the Week included in leadership’s Week Ahead email.

Now that reviews are done and commissioning of the new machine has begun, Boon’s expertise has been put to work elsewhere across the Argonne campus. The Argonne Tandem Linac Accelerator System (ATLAS), a DOE Office of Science User Facility for nuclear structure research, is installing a new injector. Part of the project includes updating safety documentation in a similar way to the process APS had to follow prior to restarting after the upgrade. The project centers around a completely different type of accelerator. The APS is an electron accelerator, while ATLAS is an ion accelerator.

Generally, what we did at the APS applies,” explained Boon. ​We need access control, shielding and beam current measurements. Those bits and pieces are the same, but how they operate is slightly different.”

After ATLAS, two other accelerators at the lab will need their safety documentation updated.

I enjoy that my work brings me something different every day,” said Boon. ​Right now, I am tackling new day-to-day challenges and learning new ways to solve them.”

When she is not working on accelerators, Boon is the chair of the Parenting and Caregiving Employee Resource Group (PACE) which is devoted to supporting and encouraging all employees who are integrating Argonne careers with parenting and caregiving roles. Outside of Argonne, Boon relishes her own parenting role and likes to spend her free time with her husband and children.

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