As the leader of the Social Activities Task Force, Doug Bashaw helps make the ALS a more fun place to work. Find out how he went from a gunner’s mate in the U.S. Navy to the electronics team here, making the ALS a safer place to work, too.
How long have you been at the Lab, and what path led you here?
I’ve been at the Lab for 12 years. I joined the U.S. Navy right out of high school, and the job I chose was a gunner’s mate, which required some electronic schooling. I really liked electronics, and I realized that it came easy to me. I was always good at math and liked those classes, so after the navy, I decided to go to school for electronics engineering technology. I was also working at a company in San Diego doing what EIs (electronics installation techs) do here. We built control panels and starters for solar turbines, and I also built the control panels for the City of Manhattan Beach for their water and sewage treatment facility.
I moved up here to San Francisco, decided to actually go to school at DeVry, and then after graduation, I got the job at Berkeley Lab.
What does your job involve?
Now that I’m a supervisor, I go to a lot of meetings, answer emails, and put out fires—sometimes literal fires. I don’t do as much hands-on work as I used to. We have a lot of new people coming in, so I do training and make sure they work safely.
I train the EMs (electronics maintenance techs) to do radiation safety system (RSS) testing. The ALS has 40 beamlines, but most of those beamlines have more than one shutter. We have around 90 RSS tests we have to do that vary from simple hutchless ones, to more complicated hutch ones, and vacuum switches. We are also responsible for testing all the machine interlocks and top-off interlocks as well. There’s a lot of variety of RSS tests. So we do all those. Usually, our owl shift staff handle most of the RSS tests, but we have to do the vacuum switch ones during the day because beamline scientists don’t like to come in the middle of the night to vent their beamline in order to check the vacuum interlocks.
Don’t be afraid to come to the EM Shop in 80-135 whenever anything comes up. It doesn’t have to be electrical; it can be water or vacuum.
What has kept you at the Lab for 12 years?
I like the challenges. Every day is basically something different. My team is in charge of all the electronics in the facility, probably a thousand pieces of electronics. Most of our power supplies vary in voltage and current, and I’m also interested in the complexity of them. I’ve always been a person that likes to take things apart and find out how they work. You just get a sense of gratification when something is broken and you finally fix it.
I really like the culture here, too. Shortly after I joined the Lab, I got really sick and my kidneys shut down. I was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease, and I couldn’t work a full 40-hour week. I had at-home dialysis, so I could only work six hours a day, Monday through Friday, then go home and get three to four hours of dialysis every day. Tim Kuneli, my supervisor, and Bob Candelario, his boss, were super accommodating. They let me come in when I felt good enough, but you know, dialysis just basically barely keeps you alive. It was rough. They said, “It’s fine, just come in when you can.”
A lot of private companies wouldn’t keep you on, but they were very concerned with my health. I had no vacation because I hadn’t been here that long, and my coworkers donated a ton of vacation so I wouldn’t have to take disability. Everyone here is pretty nice.
How is your health now?
Good! My cousin donated me his kidney, and with a living donor, the kidneys tend to last longer. I have yearly visits now with my transplant team and visits every six months with my nephrologist. Everything’s great. That’s why I’m going to Costa Rica in the summer—because it’s my 40th birthday and 10-year kidney anniversary.
On the topic of work culture, how are you involved in inclusion, diversity, equity, and accountability (IDEA) at work?
I care a lot about career development. When I first started here, it was a lot harder for younger people to get noticed and promoted, but things have changed. The EM Shop is also a lot more diverse than when I started. It’s nice to have a lot of different cultures represented in the shop now.
As the leader of the social activities task force, I feel that we work better if we not only respect each other, but if we enjoy each other’s company. The social activities task force tries to provide activities so people can get together outside of their normal work hours and engage in conversation that they wouldn’t normally have. We have happy hours, baseball games, bowling events, we go play pool, and I’m trying to organize a basketball tournament.
I’m also the coach of the ALS softball team, the Photon Bombers. We played one year pre-pandemic and are trying to bring it back.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I have two young kids who take up a lot of my free time. But I do like to play softball and exercise; I go to the gym every day, ride my bike around. I also golf on occasion. I’m taking Spanish in the evenings at City College of San Francisco.
I’m a big sports guy. I was a season ticket holder for the Giants, and now I have season tickets to the Warriors.