by Ina Reichel
At this year’s ALS User Meeting, Andrea “Andi” Jones, proposal coordinator in the User Services Office, was honored with the 2021 Tim Renner User Services Award. The ALS Users’ Executive Committee selected Jones for “her dedication and commitment in supporting the User Office that have allowed efficient proposal reviews and beamtime allocations during the pandemic.”
Jones wears a number of hats in the User Office. Beyond shepherding proposals through the review process, she also helps with the master operating calendar, the beamtime scheduler and Experiment Safety Assessment Form (ESAF), and runs the publications database. From proposal to publication, Jones makes her mark throughout the user experience. “It’s nice, because I get to see the results of what people do,” Jones said. “I see the complete circle.”
Although Jones has neatly summed up her work, her colleagues note the constellation of responsibilities involved in facilitating the user experience and just how complex it can be. In his nomination, Research Scientist Eric Schaible cited the variety of tasks Jones handles, including ALSHub logins, user beamtime questions, metrics and reports, and ALSHub software. “She has done a great job of interfacing cheerfully with users, scientists, and reviewers,” he said, “and taken on additional responsibilities to keep the User Services Office running smoothly.” In a year filled with more challenges than normal, Jones provided the solutions. Schaible added, “Andi is currently the glue that is holding our user operations together, and she deserves recognition for not letting our users down during a difficult period.”
Before coming to the Lab about five years ago, Jones was teaching human evolutionary biology at Berkeley City College. When she began looking for other job opportunities and learned of the proposal coordinator position at the ALS, she made the jump. While it’s been quite a departure from her previous work, Jones enjoys her job and thinks it’s a good fit. She particularly loves that she gets to interact with most users and beamline scientists.
These interactions were crucial when the ALS had to quickly change a lot of beamtime allocations and user onboarding processes in the face of the pandemic. Both the shift to remote operations and the quickly changing conditions of the pandemic required ALS staff and users to be flexible. When Staff Scientist Hans Bechtel needed to transfer proposals from one beamline to another, he said, “Andi was the go-to person to make things happen in the User Office.” He added, “In every case, Andi has responded nearly instantaneously to my email requests, often fixing any issues and answering all my questions about the ALS Scheduler before I can even start another task.” Not only did Jones lessen the burden on the beamline scientists, she also minimized the disruption for the users.
In return, Jones has a request for users. “Communicate with me,” she asked. If people come to her with questions before deadlines, she has more time to help resolve their issues, but she promised, “I will always help anyone, even with last minute questions or issues.” Jones also wanted to make sure that users know about the resources available on the ALS web pages and in emails. “I know everyone gets too many emails, but we try to keep them short and sweet with just the information that people need to know.”
Jones applauded her colleagues for their service as well, saying, “I can’t provide good service to users in isolation. I have such a great team supporting me.” She works closely with other people in the User Office, the safety team, and beamline scientists and believes their hard work enables her success. “I find my job very fulfilling and worthwhile, but receiving the Renner Award bumps it up a notch.” She concluded, “It’s nice to feel that what I do matters and is appreciated by people.”