Jinghua Guo has been a part of the ALS since the early days; he started out as student user in 1994 and then joined the staff in 2001. Guo’s original research focus is still one of his top interests now—studies of in situ capabilities of catalysts in gases and liquids and chemical processes. Guo also studies nanostructured materials, energy materials, and water and environmental sciences at Beamline 8.0.1 and also at 7.3.1, which will be the new home of ISAAC (In Situ/Operando Advanced Absorption Characterization) currently housed at the Beamline 126.96.36.199 endstation.
How did you end up at the ALS?
The first time I came to the ALS was in 1994 when I was a PhD student at Uppsala University in Sweden. I was developing in situ capabilities to study gas molecules, which is a research area related to energy materials and catalysis, where some of my work is still focused. I worked on 7.0.1 back then; it was such an open space on the ALS floor in those days! Initially the ring operated just one day per week, and then they moved it to three days per week. I ended up staying here at the ALS for a year as a student—my supervisor wanted me to take advantage of the ALS being a brand-new third-generation light source.
I travelled a lot as a PhD student doing experiments at synchrotrons worldwide. I met so many interesting people along the way. Every time I came to the Bay Area from Sweden, I really enjoyed the weather and the Asian food and diversity of cultures. After 11 years in Sweden I had an opportunity to apply for a staff position at the ALS, and enjoying the Bay Area so much made it easy for me to accept the position. I then started at the ALS in 2001 as a research scientist.
What has kept you here all these years?
I think the ALS is a really dynamic and interesting place to be. I’ve always felt that to support users well, we as beamline scientists need to stay at the scientific frontier and carry out our own research too. That can be challenging because of limited resources, but collaborating with students and users has given me many opportunities to focus on the research that I’m interested in.
Over the years I’ve added responsibilities to my plate: now I have beamline scientist responsibilities at Beamlines 8.0.1 and 188.8.131.52, and I’m in charge of the development of our new AMBER beamline at 6.0.1, which we’re aiming to see first light on in spring 2018. I’m also working on the endstations for AMBER right now.
RIXS (resonant inelastic x-ray scattering) and wet-RIXS have proven over the years to be extremely valuable tools for studying energy generation and storage and controlled catalytic and chemical reactions. The challenge is keeping our equipment on the cutting edge so that we’re offering users scientific and technological advances. It is great to see the ALS-U project starting, and I am happy to be a part of planning the experimental systems for the upgrade.
What is your favorite thing about working at the ALS?
The people. It’s always been easy to find collaborations with others at the ALS. The ALS has developed a reputation in science over the years and has attracted a lot of amazing people with great talent from all over the world, not only academic but also industry users. Everyone at the ALS really helps to make sure that things run smoothly—from science to administration to safety. At the ALS everyone benefits from the synergy of so many different types of research and powerful tools.
What is challenging about being at the ALS?
The budget uncertainty is challenging, with funding going up and down. Project costs and manpower costs keep going up, while our budget remains relatively flat. Another challenge is just keeping users here, because if they don’t get beam time for a year or so they’ll go elsewhere. Providing that capacity with space constraints isn’t always easy. Now we’re able to shift some of our RIXS users from 184.108.40.206 and 8.0.1 to 7.3.1 and 6.0.1 (AMBER) soon, which helps.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I really enjoy gardening and cooking, and I like to invite international people to dinners and try dishes from around the world. I play ping-pong and tennis. I also enjoy traveling as a family with my wife and two daughters to Europe, Australia, Asia, and on a road trip to the U.S. National Parks.