Berkeley Lab

BELLA People: Wim Leemans

LeemansInLab_149x180yDirector, Accelerator Technology and Applied Physics Division, LBNL
Director, BELLA Center
1 Cyclotron Rd MS 71-259
Berkeley CA 94720
telephone: 510-486-7788

Ph.D., Electrical Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles, 1991.
M.S., Electrical Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles, 1987.
Electrical Engineering and Applied Physics degree, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium, 1985.

Wim Leemans obtained an electrical engineering/applied physics degree from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium in ’85, and the MS and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering with emphasis on plasma physics, in ’87 and ’91 respectively, from UCLA. He joined Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in 1991, became a group leader in 1993, and in 1995 started the LOASIS Program (Lasers, Optics and Accelerator Systems Integrated Studies). Their work on plasma channels and production of mono-energetic electron beams was the cover story of the September 30, 2004 issue of Nature and selected by that journal as one of the top 10 discoveries of 2004. In 2006 LOASIS achieved 1 GeV electron beams from a cm-scale laser driven accelerator.

Since 2007 he has also been Director of LOASIS, which is now known as BELLA (Berkeley Lab Laser Accelerator) Center. The project has built a petawatt, 1 Hz laser system a for experiments aimed at achieving 10 GeV electron beams from a meter-scale laser plasma accelerator.
The BELLA laser set a new world power record for lasers operating at so high a repetition rate, and with it, electrons have been accelerated to 4.2 GeV in a 9 cm plasma discharge capillary.

His research interest continues to be in laser-based advanced accelerator concepts for electrons and radiation sources for supporting science and medical applications. He has published more than 140 refereed papers (among some 300 total publications); these papers have been cited well over 8000 times. His work has been recognized with several prestigious awards, listed below. He is a Fellow of the APS, the IEEE and of the AAAS, and has been research advisor for more than fifteen PhD graduate students, including two who received the APS outstanding dissertation award (2005 and 2006) and one who received the Japanese PJAS prize for outstanding dissertation (2007).

Professional experience

2/2014-present: Director, Accelerator Technology and Applied Physics Division, LBNL

2009-present: Director, BELLA Center, LBNL

2007-2013: Director, BELLA Project, LBNL

1/2007-present: Principal Investigator, Department of Physics, UC Berkeley

1/2005-2011: Adjunct Professor, Department of Physics, University of Nevada, Reno

5/2005-2012: Head, LOASIS Program (now BELLA Center), LBNL

4/94 – 4/2005: Group Leader, LOASIS, LBNL

10/04-present: Senior Staff Scientist, LBNL

10/91-10/04: Staff Scientist, LBNL

7/87-9/91: Research Assistant, University of California, Los Angeles

9/86-6/87: Teaching Assistant, University of California, Los Angeles


  • 2016: IEEE Particle Accelerator Science and Technology Award
    “For pioneering development of laser-plasma accelerators.”
  • 2014: Department of Energy Secretary’s Achievement Award
    “For management of the BELLA Project.”
  • 2012: Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • 2012: Advanced Accelerator Concepts Prize
    “For outstanding contributions to the science and technology of laser plasma accelerators.”
  • 2010:, John M. Dawson Award for Excellence in Plasma Physics Research
    “For experiments and theory leading to the demonstration of high-quality electron beams from laser-plasma accelerators.”
  • 2009: E.O. Lawrence Award from the Department of Energy
    “For breakthrough work in developing the laser plasma wakefield accelerator from concept to demonstration, and his scientific leadership exploring its promise and unprecedented possibilities ranging from hyperspectral light sources to high energy colliders.”
  • 2007: Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
    “For contributions to the field of advanced accelerators in particular laser-plasma acceleration of electrons.”
  • 2006: Outstanding Performance Award, LBNL.
  • 2005: Outstanding Performance Award, LBNL.
  • 2005: U.S. Particle Accelerator School Prize for Achievement in Accelerator Physics and Technology
    “For his contributions to the developments of laser wakefield accelerators,in particular the guiding of high-intensity laser beams and acceleration to high-energy of high-quality electron beams.”
  • 2001: Fellow of the American Physical Society
    “For pioneering experiments on the interaction of relativistic electron beams, lasers and plasmas, including femtosecond x-ray generation using Thomson scattering, plasma lens focusing, laser-plasma accelerators and advanced diagnostic techniques.”
  • 1996: Klaus Halbach Award for X-ray Instrumentation
  • 1992: American Physical Society Simon Ramo Award for Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Research Work in Plasma Physics.
  • 1987: IEEE Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society Graduate Scholarship Award.
  • 1985-86: Graduate Fellow of the Francqui Foundation, Belgium.
  • 1986: Graduate Fellow of the Belgian American Educational Foundation.

Selected publications

W.P. Leemans, A.J. Gonsalves, H.-S. Mao, K. Nakamura, C. Benedetti, C.B. Schroeder, Cs. Tóth, J. Daniels, D.E. Mittelberger, S.S. Bulanov, J.-L. Vay, C.G.R. Geddes, and E. Esarey, “Multi-GeV Electron Beams from Capillary-Discharge-Guided Subpetawatt Laser Pulses in the Self-Trapping Regime,” Physical Review Letters 113, 245002 (8 December 2014).

A.J. Gonsalves et al., “Tunable laser plasma accelerator based on longitudinal density tailoring,” Nature Physics 7, 862-866 (2011).

E. Esarey, C.B. Schroeder, and W.P. Leemans, “Physics of laser-driven plasma-based electron accelerators,” Rev. Mod. Phys. 81, 1229-1285 (2009),

W.P. Leemans et al., “GeV electron beams from a centimetre-scale accelerator,” Nature Physics 2, pp. 696-699 (2006); LBNL-60105.

C.G.R. Geddes et al., “High-quality electron beams from a laser wakefield accelerator using plasma-channel guiding,” Nature 431 (2004), pp. 538-541; LBNL-55732.

R.W. Schoenlein, W.P. Leemans et al., “Femtosecond X-ray pulses at 0.4 Angstrom generated by 90° Thomson scattering: a tool for probing the structural dynamics of materials,” Science 274, pp.236-238 (1996).