Scientist Wins Award for Work On Particle Accelerators

By Howard Ludwig

Dr. Sandra Biedron will soon have an award recognizing her work in the field of particle accelerator science for her mantel in Beverly/Morgan Park.

Biedron won the prestigious Particle Accelerator Science and Technology Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). It will be presented in May 2018 at a conference in Vancouver, British Columbia. Every two years, the IEEE gives the award to two individuals – one to a long-time contributor in the field and another to an individual earlier in his or her career.

“I have had a great career so far, doing very interesting research and development with people around that globe that I consider family,” said Biedron, who will receive the award along with Dr. Hermann Grunder.

The pair both worked at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont – a Department of Energy laboratory. There, Biedron held several key positions including the director of the Department of Defense Project Office. Grunder served as Argonne’s overall director from 2000 to 2005.

Biedron joined the University of New Mexico’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering as a research professor this fall and will expand the school’s program in accelerators. There are more than 30,000 particle accelerators in operation around the world. Research from these facilities has led to improvements in medicine, industry, energy, environmental science, national security and other scientific discoveries.

Biedron’s husband, Stephen Milton, received the same award courtesy of the IEEE’s Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society in 2003 along with colleague Dr. Keith Symon. Milton is now the division leader of accelerator operations and technology at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

The couple considers the South Side of Chicago home, but they live and work throughout the world, often collaborating with scientists in Italy, Sweden and the United States. They also have a home in Colorado.

“My neighbors here in Beverly/Morgan Park are always so supportive. It’s like having my own cheerleading team, and I owe a great deal of thanks to them and my entire family,” Biedron said.

Biedron’s work has also included several projects at Fermilab in west suburban Batavia, including research into high-power electron sources for security and environmental engineering applications. One example is a project conducted at Fermilab for the Department of Energy with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago to purify waste streams.

She has worked on similar projects with other companies throughout the Chicago region, including Meyer Tool and Manufacturing in Oak Lawn. And she received a Letter of Commendation in 2010 from the chief of naval research.This letter followed Biedron’s work on a high-power laser prototype for the Navy. She later continued with this research as the deputy lead engineer for integration and testing for the project. The project was contracted through Boeing and conducted, in part, at Argonne.

Biedron has also sat on several NATO electronics committees and worked to connect these advanced technologies to end users by bringing her research team to meet with Naval recruits at Great Lakes Naval Station and elsewhere.

Biedron was raised in Chicago’s southwest suburbs and took graduate courses at the Illinois Institute of Technology. She earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biology with a minor in mathematics from Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights. She went on to receive a doctorate in accelerator physics from Lund University in Sweden.

U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-Naperville) is also among the winners of this prestigious award. Foster won the prize in 1999 for his work that led, in part, to the discovery of the top quark – the heaviest known form of matter.

“I feel like this prize is a union card to go on and do more research, more service and more mentoring,” Biedron said. “It is an affirmation that my efforts are in the correct direction.”

Howard Ludwig is a media specialist in Chicago. He can be reached at