by Sintu Rongpipi
The Advanced Light Source (ALS) User Meeting was held August 15–17, 2022. The event, co-chaired by Users’ Executive Committee (UEC) members Hope Michelsen, Yu He, and Rourav Basak, was convened on the virtual Zoom platform for the third consecutive year. A survey conducted during the meeting showed most attendees would prefer a hybrid mode for future meetings. Plenary session recordings are available online.
In his welcome address, Berkeley Lab Associate Laboratory Director for Energy Sciences Jeff Neaton described the User Meeting as an annual highlight of the Lab. He noted that onsite activities have increased this year, mentioning ASPIRES, a new undergraduate internship program in partnership with California State University, East Bay, which brought a dozen students on site this summer. Neaton underscored the retirement of ALS Director Steve Kevan and acknowledged his over 30 years of service to the ALS. During the search for a new director, ALS Deputy for Science Andreas Scholl will step in as interim director and ALS Director of Communications and Head of Strategic Development and Communications for Energy Sciences Ashley White will step into the role of interim deputy for strategy, alongside Steve Rossi and Fernando Sannibale, deputies for business operations and accelerator operations, respectively.
Steve Kevan’s address had three messages: (1) the ALS is and will continue to be a great place to do science with its tradition of excellence and innovation augmented by the ALS upgrade (ALS-U), (2) collaboration with users plays a key role in ALS success, and (3) great ALS science is sustained by a strong scientific staff and user community supported by a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion. He summarized outstanding ALS science over the past 29 years and put forward a plan for ALS 2030 that involves establishing a scientific ecosystem that leverages the revolutionary capabilities of ALS-U, developing diverse and productive partnerships, updating foundational light source technologies to support innovative science, and expanding ALS inclusion, diversity, equity, and accountability activities.
Department of Energy (DOE) Associate Director of Science for Basic Energy Sciences Linda Horton provided updates on scientific user facilities. She noted recent staffing changes, including new program managers for x-ray and neutron scattering facilities, Dava Keavney and Misha Zhernenkov, and a new construction project program manager, Hannibal Joma. Additionally, Horton highlighted initiatives involving energy storage, bio-preparedness, artificial intelligence, and increasing participation of underrepresented groups.
This year’s David Shirley Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievement at the ALS was conferred upon Jinghua Guo for his contributions to energy, catalysis, and chemical science using operando soft x-ray spectroscopy. The Klaus Halbach Award for Innovative Instrumentation was given to Valeriy Yashchuk for his contribution to the development of a precision surface-measurement technology critical for advanced x-ray optical systems. The Tim Renner User Services Award for Outstanding Support to the ALS User Community went to Kevan Anderson on behalf of the controls group for his support to the user program through expertise in control systems and software development.
The keynote talks spanned a wide range of topics, covering in situ observation of a model catalyst for clean fuels (Irene Groot, Leiden University), kinetics of materials for sustainability (Karen Chen-Wiegart, Stony Brook/Brookhaven National Lab), machine-learning-based analysis for photoemission spectromicroscopy of quantum materials (Hideaki Iwasawa, Hiroshima Lightsource, National Institutes for Quantum Science and Technology), and dynamic behavior of catalysts through in situ microscopy and operando spectroscopy (Beatriz Roldán Cuenya, Fritz Haber Institute). Although the topics were diverse, they all shared a common thread of in situ/operando measurements. The full list of speakers is available online.
The student poster slam remained a highlight of the meeting, with ALS Senior Administrator Andrea Taylor kick-starting the event with a “band slam” song, “Someone Like (ALS) U,” a tribute to ALS employees who left this year. The student contestants then had one minute each to convince the audience to visit their poster on Gather Town, a virtual platform used this year to provide a more immersive experience. The first-place winner of the Neville Smith Student Poster Award went to Quinn Carvalho (Oregon State University) for “Relating selective electrochemical nitrate reduction to electronic structure by AP-XPS.” Second place went to Lindsey Mack (UC Davis) for “Analysis of the Aedes aegypti gonotrophic cycle using synchrotron x-ray microcomputed tomography” and third place went to Alauna Wheeler (UC Merced) for “Wide-angle x-ray scattering (WAXS) to investigate effects of e-cigarette chemical additives on lung surfactant structure.”
Another Day 1 highlight was a new feature—a career-path panel discussion. Tom Hogan (Quantum Design), Terry McAfee (ALS), Edbert Sie (Meta), and Francesca Toma (Berkeley Lab) along with moderators Hope Michelsen (University of Colorado Bolder) and Yu He (Yale University) answered questions on wide-ranging topics, including innovations from collaborations, switching career paths, existing biases, and being brave when making career decisions.
On Day 2, ALS-U updates were provided by Project Director Dave Robin and Beamlines and Optical Systems Lead Elaine DiMasi, along with ALS scientists David Shapiro, Sujoy Roy, and Aaron Bostwick. The project was recently reviewed to assess its readiness (CD-3) to proceed to the construction phase, and the outcome is anticipated this fall. Then, Andreas Scholl gave an update on the different beamlines impacted and upgraded as part of the ALS-U project.
The highlight of Day 2 was a special celebration for Steve Kevan, beginning with Berkeley Lab Director Michael Witherell acknowledging Kevan’s contributions to the ALS and Berkeley Lab. The session closed with a video that conveyed heartfelt messages from UEC members and colleagues, past and present.
Eleven workshops and tutorials were offered this year. Full descriptions and available recordings are posted online. With Steve Kevan’s retirement and the approaching ALS-U implementation phase, the overarching theme of this year’s User Meeting was a celebration of the glorious past and anticipation of a very bright future.