by Kostas Vellidis
IASA stands for Institute of Accelerating Systems and Applications – a mouthful indeed. IASA is a relative rarity in Greece: it is a private non-profit research institute. A number of those University Research Institutes (URI), or, in the original (to help you refresh your math characters) Ερευνητικά Πανεπιστημιακά Ινστιτούτα (ΕΠΙ), were established in the 90s, in an effort to promote research and postgraduate studies in the Greek University system by providing specialized infrastructure and/or expertise.
IASA was founded along these lines in 1994 and, in a nearly unique fashion among the Greek URIs, it is not a single-university institute, but a joint institute of the two oldest and most prestigious institutions of higher learning: the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (another mouthful, abbreviated to NKUA) and the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA).
IASA is affiliated with six university departments: Medicine, Physics and Informatics of the NKUA and Electrical & Computer Engineering, Chemical Engineering and Applied Mathematics and Natural Sciences of the NTUA. As its name implies, the institute is charged with pursuing research and promoting graduate studies in areas where accelerators and accelerator-related technologies play a major role. Its cross-disciplinary character and its infrastructure in enabling technologies have proven to provide an attractive and fertile ground for faculty working on a number of technology-driven scientific fronts.
IASA is an autonomous legal entity that is governed by a Board of Directors elected by the governing bodies of the two Universities, and it is managed by a directorate appointed by the Senates of the two Universities. IASA is the largest joint URI operating under the auspices of the Ministry of Education. Its developmental program and its operating funds are provided by the State, which exercises direct financial oversight over the Institute, while its research program is supported through competitive research grants primarily from the Ministry of Development and the European Union.
IASA is currently engaged in research projects in the areas of Nuclear and Particle physics, Nuclear Medicine and Imaging, Accelerator Science & Engineering, Automated Control, Scientific Computing, Environmental Physics, Microwave Engineering and Telecommunications. These thematic areas currently host about 10 PhD students and 10 postdoctoral research associates. Students enrol in the PhD programs at NKUA or NTUA (and they obtain their degrees from the corresponding university). These young researchers are supervised by faculty from the six departments with which the institute is affiliated. Finally, a small number of undergraduates (so far all of them from NKUA) also carry out BSc thesis projects under the supervision of faculty affiliated with IASA.
IASA is engaged, through its research programs, in a number of international collaborations. In addition, a number of agreements of cooperation have been signed with International Research Centers and Universities such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Illinois in the US, CERN (Switzerland), DESY (Germany), JINR (Russia), ESA (Netherlands) and ESS-ERIC (Sweden).
The IASA group participating in AMVA4NewPhysics has extensive experience in the second part of the project’s acronym, “NewPhysics”. The project has been an excellent way to engage actively in the AMVA project. The PI is Konstantinos Vellidis, an associate professor in the Physics Department of NKUA. Another faculty member, Niki Saoulidou, is serving as the ITN’s Equal Opportunity Officer. Our ESR is Ioanna Papavergou, a Greek national who obtained her BSc in Physics in Thessaloniki (the second largest city in Greece, situated in the northern part of the country) and then left to the Netherlands where she carried out her Master’s work and thesis on studies of Dark Matter – which was a good introduction to the current new physics topics the IASA team is working on, namely the search for Supersymmetry and Dark Matter with the CMS experiment.
The NKUA team at Athens has been a member of CMS since 1994, i.e. as far back as the time of the Technical Proposal. In the following years, the group led the design and construction of the CASTOR calorimeter and also made important contributions to the Data Acquisition (DAQ) system, the software for the High Level Trigger, and to the preparations of the software and analysis system, and in particular the two volumes of the Physics Technical Design Report of the experiment.
Nowadays, the group has four faculty members (including an emeritus member), six PhD students, four MSc students, and several undergraduates. The members of the NKUA-CMS group have been working mainly on the Level-1 Muon Trigger, and in particular the Barrel Muon Track Finder. Work in this area continues with improvements and planned extensions of the current system as well as the design and prototyping of key elements for the upgrade of CMS for the High-Luminosity LHC set to begin in 2026. Thanks to their involvement in AMVA4NewPhysics, the group has started contributing also to a new thematic area, namely the deployment and development of machine learning techniques in physics analysis.
Physics-wise, in Run I the group carried out extensive work within the Supersymmetry and Standard Model physics groups. This work continues in Run II, during which some of the analyses were naturally extended to searches for exotic new particles and searches for dark matter.
As for the current status? The great hope is that the first part of the project acronym – AMVA – will yield new paths to the second part of the ITN’s name. Stay tuned!