Kevan Anderson joined the ALS in August as supervisor of the Beamline Controls Group, which is responsible for supporting the integrated control systems associated with ALS beamlines. Anderson works with a group of software developers who are available to beamline scientists.
How did you end up at the ALS?
I studied engineering physics at Berkeley and then got my masters in mechanical engineering/control systems. Working on my control systems degree, there was a lot of hands-on coursework, working with machines. Prior to this position, I was the supervisor of a software team at Cobham, a company that builds maritime stabilized antennas. I saw the description of this position and was really intrigued.
This group has a really customizable software product. This was one of the reasons why I wanted to come work at the Lab. I was impressed by the software product that this team had created and I could see areas where I could help contribute.
What do you like most about working at the ALS?
I enjoy interacting with all the different people. I have a boss, but really all the beamline scientists are my boss. There’s such a variety of people, everyone has different needs, and there are complicated problems to solve. That whole process is fun. One of the fun things about software development is that you can’t do it without understanding exactly what it is you’re trying to do. So you end up learning the system, and you end up learning a little bit of the science.
What’s been the most challenging part of your job thus far?
Learning—there’s a lot of learning to do for this job, and it is a continual process. A challenge for our group as a whole is communication; creating opportunities where the communication that I want can happen. We’re in a somewhat unique position in that we work with a lot of different beamlines and often we hear the same question from multiple people. I’ve been thinking about in what forum we can share that information so that everyone can learn from one another. Right now, we’re attempting to hire two new people, which is its own challenge.
What’s a typical day like for you?
Things change all the time, but there’s usually a background project you’re working on when you can. There’s always something to order, someone to call, things to follow up with. You never know when you’re going to get an email or call saying, “Hey, can you come and help me with this?” Being the new person, when you get that kind of message it’s usually a good idea to be ready to accompany whoever responds to that because it’s a learning opportunity.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I don’t have much spare time; I have two- and four-year-old daughters at home. I have sailed much of my life, but haven’t done it since the kids were born. I like to brew beer, but again, not much of that since having kids. I’ve recently gotten into making sourdough bread, which is much more kid-friendly. It doesn’t take nearly as long as making beer!