Dear colleagues and users of the ALS!
It is with great excitement and I have to admit, a touch of nervousness that I pen my first column as the new director of the Advanced Light Source (ALS). Let me start by saying: it’s an absolute pleasure to be here, and I am more than ready to embark on this new endeavor with all of you!
But before we talk more about the ALS and its exciting future, let me share a little of my personal background. My journey began in Greece, where I was born, and continued on the other side of the world in Sydney, Australia, where I spent most of my teenage years and completed my graduate and postgraduate education. Soon, I found myself using solid state chemistry and crystal growth to make materials and explore their properties. In order to understand their underlying physics, I used the power of neutrons and x-rays and collaborated extensively with theorists and colleagues who brought new insights using other methods. I am grateful for the opportunities I had to work in this field on both sides of the Atlantic, where I formed lasting collaborations and friendships.
Fast forward a few years from there, and I found myself in Scandinavia helping to launch the construction of the European Spallation Source (ESS). Between us, I was likely unprepared for the scientific, technical, and political complexity for such an ambitious project, but these years helped me tremendously to understand facilities and their value to the science community and society. There are many parallels and good lessons from ESS that also apply to the ALS and ALS-U, and I aim to bring these to the table to the ensure that our journey ahead is successful.
I was completely thrilled when the opportunity arose to join ALS and Berkeley Lab! While it is tough to change countries and career direction again (and I am not getting any younger), what drove my own and my wife’s decision was the quality, enthusiasm, professionalism, and energy of the people we met and the unwavering support of the user community. This was an irresistible siren’s call, and I’m happy that my ears were not stopped up with beeswax. From my first day at the ALS, I sensed the vibrant atmosphere, one pulsating with excitement for the great science that is done here and some trepidation for what lies ahead. What is without doubt is that the ALS and its community are driven by the persistent pursuit of science, collaborating to push boundaries to make a tangible difference in the world.
As I look to the future, I cannot help but get carried away with the immense promise that lies ahead for the ALS. The ALS upgrade provides to our community essentially a brand new facility with world-leading performance in soft and tender x-rays. Together with the new accelerator that we are building—the accumulator ring, and replacing the old storage ring with a diffraction-limited one—we will build a set of flagship instruments that take advantage of these new capabilities. It is a tremendously exciting time to be at the ALS, and the limit is surely our creativity and effort.
The ALS is built on a strongly collaborative environment. If we are going to rise to the challenge to fully harvest the opportunities that will be provided by ALS-U, we shall have to deepen our collaboration and, as a community, craft new strategies going forward to ensure our joint success. Indeed, in September at our User Meeting, we look forward to starting this discussion with you all at our visioning workshops. I would warmly encourage you to attend and participate if you have the opportunity. Your opinion and scientific vision can be very impactful for the ALS at this stage.
My personal approach and the way I engage with my colleagues and the community is to embrace collaboration and partnership and an open exchange of ideas. Each one of us brings a unique perspective and skillset to the table, and it is in this diversity of ideas and people that we find the seeds of transformational breakthroughs. Let’s continue to strive to create an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere at the ALS where everyone’s voice is heard and valued.
I am eager to engage with each of you, learn from your experiences, and work together in shaping the future of the ALS. My door is always open, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts, ideas, and aspirations for our facility.
As I conclude my first column, let me express my sincere gratitude to the leadership of Steve Kevan that has sown the seeds of transformation for the ALS, and to Andreas Scholl and the team for ensuring that, during the interim period and transition to the new director, the ALS did not skip a beat. We are all in their debt, so please extend a thank you to them whenever you see them.
I am grateful for the warm welcome I have received. I am honored to be a part of this incredible community, and together, I am confident we will achieve extraordinary feats.
So, here’s to a bright, exciting future at the Advanced Light Source! Forward and upwards!