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Final Report Summary - PICOSEC-MCNET (Pico-second Silicon photomultiplier-Electronics- & Crystal research-Marie-Curie-Network)

Embedded in a highly innovative R&D program featuring novel applications in time of flight positron emission tomography (TOF-PET) and future high-energy physics (HEP) instrumentation, PicoSEC-MCNet has come to completion. This four-year long training project under the auspices of the European Commission’s Marie Curie Actions has attracted a total of 18 early stage researchers (ESRs) and 4 experienced researchers (ERs) from 15 nations worldwide (Argentina, Bulgaria, China, Cuba, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, India, Iran, Israel, Latvia, Lebanon, Poland, Spain). PicoSEC-MCNet pays tribute to the Commission’s ITN Programme that has also brought together an international staff of distinguished scientists to supervise and help the students pursue their scientific and educational endeavors in this Network. Owing to the stimulating research and education environment offered to them by seven public research and four private sector Network Partners located in six European countries (France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland and the Netherlands), these highly motivated researchers have become true experts in the fields of scintillation phenomena, optics and photodetectors, but also for a wide range of applications in ultrafast timing, electronics and data acquisition (DAQ).

The scientific achievements of the researchers are indeed of world-class quality and demonstrate the viability of such an ITN. To name but a few, the collaboration made state-of-the-art advances and discoveries in the following domains:

• The development of scintillating fibers of highest purity and excellent mechanical and optical properties;
• Substantial progress in photon transport techniques to improve light transfer from crystals to photodetectors, such as micro-focusing, optical, components and photonic crystals;
• A comprehensive, in-depth, analysis and understanding of the fundamental features of SiPMs and the development of a purely multi-digital SiPM with on-chip TDC/ADC readout and functional control;
• Record-level test results from developments in scintillators, light transfer and photodetectors:
o A coincidence time resolution (CTR/FWHM) of 83ps (short crystal) and 140ps (long crystals) for photons of 511keV, but also for minimum ionizing particles (MIP) with a CTR as low as 30ps;
• The construction, integration, and phantom testing of an endoscopic Time-Of-Flight Positron Emission Tomograph (TOF-PET) prototype to address prostatic and pancreatic cancers.
• The construction and tests of several prototypes for High-Energy Physics (HEP) detectors (AHCAL for the CALICE experiment, mu3e, Fiber calorimeters)

Benefitting from regular secondments to partner facilities, researchers could widen their scope, both scientifically and intellectually, particularly pursuing activities of dissemination and outreach. While the researchers were able to benefit from frontline research in medical imaging and high-energy particle physics, the Network’s commitment to also fostering ancillary skills in other areas, e.g. management, language and presentation skills, has enriched their personal proficiencies towards higher perspectives for a promising career beyond national frontiers.

14 Network trainings were organized by the collaborating host institutes:

1. “Crystals and scintillators” in Lyon/France;
2. “Laser lithography and diffractive optics” in Montpellier/France;
3. “Medical Entrepreneurship” In Munich/Germany;
4. “Communication” at CERN/Switzerland;
5. “Quantum detection, single-photon imaging, SiPMs, SPADs” in Delft/The Netherlands;
6. “Semiconductor devices, design and manufacturing” in Catania/Italy;
7. “Electronics and DAQ systems for radiation detectors” in Lisbon/Portugal;
8. “System integration” at DESY/Germany;
9. “Communicating science inside the scientific community” at CERN/Switzerland;
10. “Management” in Syracusa/Italy;
11. “CV writing and dealing with interviews” in Milano/Italy;
12. “Medical imaging & processing” in Munich/Germany;
13. “The route to market: how innovation moves from laboratory to product” in Montpellier/France.
14. “Intellectual Property Rights” in Montpellier/France.

Additionally, the Network had arranged four workshops

1. “Workshop on Intraoperative Imaging and Navigation Solutions” in Munich/Germany;
2. “Workshop on Physics Instrumentation for Cancer Diagnostics and Cancer Therapy” in Heidelberg/Germany;
3. “Detectors for High Energy Physics” in Milano/Italy;
4. “Network workshop on PicoSEC-MCNet results in Heidelberg /Germany as a closure event of the PicoSEC-MCNet project.
The educational program also included visits of eminent scientific and medical installations in Europe:

• The hadron therapy center “CNAO” in Pavia/Italy;
• “Heidelberger Ionenstrahl Therapie” (HIT) and the 7 Tesla magnetic resonance facility in Heidelberg/Germany;
• CERN, the world's largest high-energy particle physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland.

Being also committed to an affirmative education & outreach agenda the PicoSEC-MCNet researchers had participated and organized several outreach events. On 19 May 2014, for example, one of the CERN-based PicoSEC-MCNet researchers met the European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn. Researchers also arranged special outreach events in local high schools, seven in the Geneva area, one in Heidelberg, and another in Munich. Several researchers also returned to their home countries and presented their work and the Network’s activities in the schools they had attended themselves.

Proud of their outstanding scientific success, researchers travelled to top-level international conferences and schools where they displayed their research results and exposed their work to scrutiny by international audiences. Almost all of their research work has turned into publications in international, (partly) peer reviewed, journals and proceedings.

• A total of 14 training events were organized;
• 121 conferences were attended by the researchers;
• 48 oral or poster presentations were given at international events and conferences;
• 45 scientific papers or proceedings were submitted or published;
• 17 researchers are currently engaged in a PhD thesis where 15 had already enrolled in their PhD program during the Network term whereas two have enrolled after Network closure.

Detailed information can be found in: http://picosec.web.cern.ch/picosec/.

The technological spin-offs from the project’s research and the wide educational spectrum provided by the Network’s partners are of highest value for society and were a focal point in this Network. The consortium of academic and industrial partners has indeed realized the enormous benefit of a collaboration between the public and the private sector, especially in view of its proven ‘cross-boundary’ training success. This idea has opened the doors to both cultures and enabled the researchers to learn from the cross-fertilization between sectors and from the synergies between the Network Partners following the same objective. The environment in which the ESRs and ERs evolved was designed to promote their curiosity and an entrepreneurial spirit. Since they had taken part in many project phases, they could gain valuable experience in many aspects of a large project, which they can apply in their own initiatives later in their careers.

Furthermore, the technological, innovational and educational progress made by the researchers through this ITN demonstrates the large impact that PicoSEC-MCNet has made on research training in Europe and promoting European cohesion in research that is based on improved knowledge transfer.

What made this Network so distinctive and attractive was the arena of state-of-the-art research facilities, in most cases not available elsewhere, and high-tech industry, jointly working on a most challenging project spanning the spectrum from HEP to PET. The transferability of the physics research to medical applicability and the possibility for industrial manufacture of commercial tools and instruments, as demonstrated in this ITN, have high potential visibility. PicoSEC-MCNet has shown that (long-term) ventures with industrial partners are increasingly important as the gap between the technological capacities of the research institutes and industry widens. PicoSEC-MCNet was the kernel to the formation of a cohesive team of partners and researchers, a spirit that will persist in the future even after the project has finished. It can thus be seen in good faith as a 4-year success story and an example for future undertakings of this kind.

For further information: http://picosec.web.cern.ch/picosec/

Contact: Etiennette Auffray, EP Department, CERN

e-mail: Etiennette.Auffray@cern.ch

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EUROPEAN ORGANIZATION FOR NUCLEAR RESEARCH
Switzerland
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