Camille Ginsburg - Director of Accelerator Operations

  • Camille Ginsburg shown inside the CEBAF accelerator enclosure

A passion for enabling physics helps CEBAF
deliver reliable beams for experiments

Camille Ginsburg knows a few things about physics: She holds a Ph.D. in experimental particle physics and is a primary author or co-author on ~600 technical papers in the field. Now, she applies that knowledge toward managing one of the most advanced research machines on Earth.

As director of accelerator operations of Jefferson Lab’s Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility, Ginsburg oversees a dedicated team responsible for ensuring this particle accelerator continues to generate data for nearly 1,700 scientific users from around the world.

“My team and I are responsible for operating the CEBAF accelerator,” Ginsburg summarizes. “In this role, I feel strongly that I’m enabling outstanding physics, and that’s really important to me.”

CEBAF is, essentially, a microscope used in nuclear physics. Instead of visible light, CEBAF uses electrons, or light generated by those electrons, to probe the nucleus of the atom and its constituents. The sheer size of this “microscope” is enormous; it is a racetrack-shaped facility located 30 feet underground and consisting of a tunnel loop that is 7/8 of a mile (1.4 km) around. CEBAF enables experiments by generating a beam of electrons that each travel at almost the speed of light around this loop once or as many as 5.5 times before plunging into one of the lab’s four experimental halls for experiments.

Physics background informs operations expertise

While working first at HERA, in Germany, and then at the Tevatron at the Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Ginsburg discovered her interest in managing operations to enable physics experiments.

“I’m an experimental physicist, and I love doing research and producing papers,” she admits. “But I discovered that operations is fun and exciting for me, too.”

As the director of CEBAF operations, Ginsburg uses her 30 years of experience in experimental physics, accelerator physics, and accelerator technology to address the challenges in interconnected systems of technology, engineering and science, so that she and her team can optimize beam delivery for each experiment. Ensuring efficient operations also requires open and clear communication with those working at the experiments. She honed her collaborative skills working with diverse colleagues from around the world on large physics experiments and in accelerator design teams.

“Figuring out how to bring a group of very talented, motivated and dedicated people with disparate ideas together to find common ground is sometimes very challenging, and it is very rewarding,” she says. “We all want to accomplish the science goals.”

Ensuring uninterrupted CEBAF operations requires a diverse set of technical skills

Operating such a facility is a complex undertaking, requiring a dedicated team working around-the-clock and some of the top engineering and physics resources in the world. As many of the scientists in the Jefferson Lab Users Organization wait a decade or more for their turn to use CEBAF, Ginsburg and her team of about 50 scientists, operators, crew chiefs, engineers, and computing professionals, have perhaps the most important roles of all at the lab: to ensure reliable, online operations for every project, around the clock, for up to 34 weeks per year.

In short, Ginsburg and her team simultaneously deliver electron beams at varying energies to any of the four experimental halls at any given time.

“CEBAF operations is concentrated on delivering a high-quality electron beam to four experimental halls.  We have a lot of diagnostic equipment that tells us the beam’s position and dimensions, and its polarization when needed,” she says. “We also monitor the health of many components that are required to keep the machine operating properly, including beam acceleration devices (cryomodules), beam steering devices (magnets), as well as infrastructure, such as cooling water and beam diagnostics equipment. In addition, we monitor the presence of electrons that are lost from their intended path because of missteering or other issues.” 

To help ensure continuous operations, a team of one crew chief and two operators monitors the system from a control room 24/7 and is in contact with on-call component experts, if needed. In addition, each of the experimental halls has its own control room that is continuously staffed as the hall receives electrons from the CEBAF accelerator for experiments. The individual control rooms maintain contact throughout operations to ensure everything is running smoothly.

“Running CEBAF is definitely a lab-wide effort,” Ginsburg says. “A very important part of my role is to make sure that my team is able to do their job and to remove any hurdles I can.”

While Ginsburg and her team keep constant vigil over CEBAF operations, they also must keep an eye to the future by addressing ongoing repairs and plans for upgrades.

“We have quite a lot of ongoing projects to improve the machine,” Ginsburg says. “As you would find with any operating machine, there are things you want to improve today, tomorrow and in five years. CEBAF is supposed to run for another thirty years, so it’s an ongoing, continual process to work on repairs and upgrades so that can happen.”

Learn more about Camille Ginsburg
YouTube Bite-Size lecture series; “Smashing Atoms for Science with Camille Ginsburg”
Women @ Energy: Dr. Camille Ginsburg
Jefferson Lab Welcomes New Director of Accelerator Operations
Accelerator and Experimental Schedule


By Carrie Rogers


Jefferson Science Associates, LLC, a joint venture of the Southeastern Universities Research Association, Inc. and PAE Applied Technologies, manages and operates the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, or Jefferson Lab, for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic 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, visit