Even before joining the ALS in 2015, Clency was impressed by the scientific mission of the facility. Although his work takes him all over the ALS, he is interested in one particular type of research—find out what has captured his attention.
How long have you been at the Lab?
I joined the Lab community in April 2004 and was in Facilities until August 2013 when they had a reduction in force. I enjoyed working here and felt like I hadn’t accomplished my mission yet, so I joined the ALS in December 2015.
What is your mission?
To make a contribution to science. When I was in the Facilities Division, I came through the ALS on the way to the cafeteria. I looked around at some of the things that were happening, and I was intrigued and wanted to contribute to that. In 2015, an opportunity to come back to the Lab presented itself, and I landed in the very place I wanted to be—the Advanced Light Source!
Is there a particular part of the science that inspires you?
I was making my rounds one day, and Marc Allaire saw me looking at some of the posters in Sector 5. He said, “Are you curious about what we’re doing?” I said yes, and he explained it to me like a third grader. He explained it really well, so I kind of gravitated to that and have asked many questions as time has gone by. Since I have so much contact with the Berkeley Center for Structural Biology (I’ve delivered over 2000 dewars to Sectors 5 and 8), I’m learning a little about protein crystallography each day, and it’s really intriguing. I decided that, for the remainder of my time here, I will try and learn as much as possible about protein crystallography.
About a year ago, I brought in a dewar to Sector 8, and a lot of people were looking at that dewar because it belonged to Jennifer Doudna. They said, “She’s going to be a Nobel Prize winner one day.” And it turns out she actually won the Nobel Prize!
What is a typical day for you?
I come in and check my email because the bulk of what I do is customer related. I find out who’s looking for me so I address things in the proper order and base my day on that. The basic things that I do include picking up and delivering dewars, delivering packages, or searching for lost or mis-delivered packages. For the most part, it’s customer service. When I’m walking around, it never fails—I’ll leave with two things I’m going to accomplish and come back with eight assignments. It’s like the fire department. I’m super busy with all sorts of things in shipping, receiving, and stockroom matters, and sometimes I’m just working on the gear and washing the firetruck. The days go really quickly, and I always feel fulfilled everyday when I leave, because I think I’ve given good customer service to good people.
How has the job changed during the pandemic?
On a serious note, the job changed a lot for me when we lost my coworker Derrick Crofoot. We worked really closely together, and I was looking forward to drawing from his extensive knowledge and experience at the ALS. It just really set me back. I was off for about three months at the beginning of COVID. I came back in July 2020 and it was just me. I worked alone from July until March 1, 2021, and that included the demolition of Building 7 and moving to Building 53. Along with my regular duties, trying to set up the stockroom at a brand new location was challenging. It was also rewarding, because I got a chance to look at the bones of what makes this piece of the ALS work, how it functions, and then an opportunity to add my two cents to see if I could make it better for folks.
Would you like to speak on the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accountability (IDEA) efforts at the Lab?
I am 100% behind that. I grew up in Vallejo in the 60s, and my neighborhood had African Americans, Caucasians, Spanish, Portuguese, Mexicans, Chinese, Hawaiians, and Filipinos. To this day, there’s a group of ten of us that are still friends, and we’ve known each other since kindergarten. The way I look at IDEA is, I respect your culture, I respect you as an individual–for me, that’s all there is to it. The Lab makes a serious effort to make sure everybody is included, and I appreciate that. I feel like I can fit right into that.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I love music. Once upon a time, I was a drummer and a bass player. Now, everything is software. I still dabble with the bass guitar and keyboards, but my preference is Magix Music Maker software. My plan for 2020 was to release some of my music, but COVID kicked in and kind of changed that. But in my free time, I’m at my laptop making music. I’ve been trying to get into fishing. My daughter bought me a bunch of gear last year, but I must confess the tags are still on and the license is expired! I have three wonderful grandchildren in Provo, Utah, and Windermere, Florida. As soon as COVID restrictions ease up, I’m on a plane!
Listen to one of Clency’s songs: