After spending almost two decades at the ALS, Jeff Troutman knows the facility from the top to the tunnels. Find out more about his special way of commemorating special visitors to the ALS.
What do you do at the ALS?
I have many job titles—work planner, building manager, shutdown manager, safety guy. There are no typical days, but there are some patterns. Some days are more devoted towards work planning, shutdown work and maintenance planning (SWAMP) and operations meetings. Some larger projects involve more detailed planning to facilitate effective execution. Recently, it’s been a lot of ALS-U preparation. A very important distinction is that when it comes down to planning the project, I’m the one that puts the Gantt chart together and allocates resources, but I am not a technical or project lead. Experts in those fields are the ones that handle that portion, and then I work with them to make sure that we can get their project executed both safely and efficiently.
What’s an upcoming project we should know about?
One big thing that’s coming up over the summer shutdown is the replacement of our 6,000-gallon liquid nitrogen tank. Our partners in the Berkeley Lab Projects and Infrastructure Modernization Division are executing the project for us and have contracted with GroundLevel Construction (the same contractor that performed our HVAC upgrade) to replace the tank over the summer shutdown. Liquid nitrogen is crucial to many experiments–particularly protein crystallography and gas phase experiments.
Another important project is the relocation of the booster bend power supply racks. We are moving them from the booster pit to the top of the booster roof. This will create the space we need to install the new booster bend power supply, currently planned for the Winter 2023 shutdown.
How long have you been at the ALS?
Almost 20 years. I managed the User Office for five years, and in 2008, the division needed a work planner, and they were interested in growing someone internal. So, I transitioned to my current position, and they supported me with a great team, which was something necessary to be successful in this job. And even though I’ve been in this job for 14 years now, it’s always different. I’m always learning new things. So, the job hasn’t stayed the same by a long shot, but it’s so much fun.
When I need a break from my office or have a break between meetings, I take a walk. Sometimes, it takes me an hour to get around the ring because I run into different people and end up talking with them about their projects or something. These serendipitous interactions really do make a difference, and it’s nice to see us getting back to that after COVID. The random breakout Zoom rooms after our All-to-All meetings have been good in trying to achieve some of those interactions, but there really is no substitute for being out there on the floor and having these workplace exchanges.
The most rewarding part of the job is when we’re in the second half of a long shutdown. Everybody is working full swing, the projects are well underway, and they’re just cooking. It’s really neat to see, because the people that we have here are like wizards and magicians; they’re so specialized in what they do, and they take these difficult tasks and make them seem easy because they’re experts in their profession. To observe that as a planner—people executing on these plans—is so cool. And at the end, we get light back.
What are some of the changes you’ve seen at the ALS over the years?
The one thing that has been interesting is that in times of COVID, we’ve been able to get more people to our meetings on Zoom. It’s a wider audience. But, in the early days of COVID, we couldn’t get a group to look at a piece of equipment and solve a problem together in person.
One thing that’s made a big difference is our Matterport scans, which provide virtual “walkarounds” of our spaces, and so we can go in and around the storage ring while we’re closed up. That’s been a huge advantage, and now we do scans at the end of every long shutdown so we can see the current state of the storage ring.
What’s something that would make users’ lives easier, and something that would make your job easier?
For the users, it’s about knowing who to ask when you have questions, and usually your best start point is the Control Room.
For me, tell me about your projects! That way, we can allocate resources and get it done–particularly during long shutdowns.
You’re known to be a sports fan. Can you tell us about your special baseball collection?
I try to get different folks to sign baseballs as they come through on tours. I have Steve Chu’s, Jennifer Granholm’s, and Jennifer Doudna’s signatures. Three baseballs, which encompass two Secretaries of Energy and two Nobel Prize winners. People seem to like signing baseballs—it’s not something they often do!
And yes, I’m a fan of the Giants, the 49ers, the Warriors, and University of Arizona anything (though I’ll always root for Cal unless they’re playing U of A). Our previous dog, Posey, was named after the Giants catcher. I like going to sporting events because it allows me to spend time with people I care about and not have to think about regular life for a little while.