CARS Organizational History

The impetus behind CARS came primarily from Prof. Joseph Smith, a noted mineraologist at the University of Chicago. In 1989, when the construction of the Advanced Photon Source was announced, Smith saw an opportunity to put the University immediately at the forefront of an emerging field of science by building a facility at the new light source. Smith vigorously advocated for representation across disciplines. He also sought broad support beyond the University, both in terms of funding and collaboration, including involvement with industrial partners and a close association with the synchrotron community in Australia. In its current form and focus, CARS still owes much to this early influence.

The organization was initially formed as the Consortium for Advanced Radiation Sources (CARS), with three member institutions, to build out three sectors at the APS (see timeline below). In 1992, the University of Chicago created a department-level center, the Center for Advanced Radiation Sources (also CARS), through which the operations at APS are now managed. The Consortium was unusual among the original APS Collaborative Access Teams in being a large, interdisciplinary, multi-institutional effort with an extensive central design and technology team. The Consortium continues as a framework that helps guide the scientific direction of the Center facilities.

From 2005 through 2009, the Center managed the Industrial Macromolecular Crystallography Association Collaborative Access Team (IMCA), which operates sector 17 at the APS. CARS provided technical expertise with the objective of upgrading 17-ID to a state-of-the-art high-throughput facility for structural biology in support of drug design. The upgrade is complete, and 17-ID now provides a very stable, very small beam with high flux, made possible by state-of-the-art adaptive optics. IMCA is now managed by the Hauptman Woodward Medical Research Institute.

Since the late 1980s, several CARS staff members have had a formal collaborative association with the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) at Brookhaven National Laboratory that has involved work at several NSLS beamlines (including X-17, X-19, X-26A, and X-26C).

Major Organizational Milestones


  • Consortium for Advanced Radiation Sources (CARS) established: Northern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, University of Chicago
  • University of Chicago Vice-President for Research and for Argonne National Laboratory, Walter Massey, appoints Joe Smith as the first Director of the University of Chicago Center for Advanced Radiation Sources to pursue a facility at the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne


  • Funding received: State of Illinois Technology Challenge Grant ($2.6M)
  • First Consortium for Advanced Radiation Sources Board of Governors meets
    • Stuart Rice, University of Chicago—Board of Governors Chairman 1990–1993
    • Clyde Kimball, Northern Illinois University—Board of Governors Chairman 1993–present


  • Proposal for two sectors (BioCARS and GeoSoilEnviroCARS) approved by the APS


  • Center for Advanced Radiation Sources affirmed by University of Chicago Provost Gerhard Casper to administer Consortium
  • First funding received for BioCARS from National Institutes of Health


  • Proposal for a third sector (ChemMatCARS) approved by APS


  • First funding received for GeoCARS from National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Energy for Sector 13
  • Memorandum of Understanding signed with APS for BioCARS, Sector 14, and GeoSoilEnviroCARS, Sector 13


  • APS first X-rays


  • Memorandum of Understanding signed with APS for ChemMatCARS, Sector 15
  • First light, GSECARS & BioCARS
  • Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO) joins Consortium
  • First funding received for ChemMatCARS from National Science Foundation & U.S. Department of Energy for Sector 15


  • First light, ChemMatCARS CARS ribbon-cutting held at the APS


  • University of Illinois at Chicago joins Consortium


  • Industrial Macromolecular Crystallography Association enters into agreement whereby CARS manages APS Sector 17


  • CARS passes $100 million in total funding (direct costs)


  • Upgraded BioCARS beamline 14-ID opens to users (dual in-line undulator, ultrafast laser, 100-picosecond time resolution)


  • Management contract with Industrial Macromolecular Crystallography Association ends (December)


  • Upgraded ChemMatCARS monochromator and optics open to users

CARS Initial Leadership Team

Assembled by Joe Smith (1989 – 1992)

  • Keith Moffat, BioCARS
  • Wilfried Schildkamp, BioCARS
  • Mark Rivers, GSECARS
  • Steve Sutton, GSECARS
  • Stuart Rice, ChemMatCARS
  • P. James Viccaro, ChemMatCARS
  • Fred Stafford, U of C Director of Special Projects
  • Joy Talsma, CARS Executive Administrator

Executive Directors of CARS

  • Joseph V. Smith (1989-1992)
  • Keith Moffat (1992-2000)
  • P. James Viccaro (2000, Interim)
  • Stuart Rice (2001-2003)
  • P. James Viccaro (2003-2013)
  • Mark Rivers (2013-2022)
  • Peter Eng (2022-Present)