Noah Schwartz has worked at Berkeley Lab for 13 years, joining the ALS as User Services Office Supervisor in August. He jumped right in to help plan the User Meeting in October and will continue to work to improve the overall user experience.
Where were you before you came to the ALS?
I’ve been at the Lab about 13 years, starting in Life Sciences for 10 years, then Materials Sciences for three years. My prior positions were all pretty similar in nature, supporting either scientists or a division office. Coming to the ALS is a whole new territory, and I’m working on solutions to new challenges. I’ve known a little about the ALS and have learned a lot more about how the actual equipment works, going into the ring, meeting all the staff, seeing how many people it takes to make this facility function. It’s a very strongly collaborative effort to keep everything running at once, and it’s just fascinating to see.
What will you do at the ALS?
Well, I’m figuring that out as I go. Planning the User Meeting logistics is a big part of my job, and what I’ve mostly been doing since I arrived. I’ll be overseeing the front desk and ensuring that our procedures and systems are up-to-date. The needs surrounding the data that we have are changing, and new things are coming up, like Foreign Visits and Assignments (FVA). I’m making modifications to how information is delivered so that FVA has everything they need as quickly as possible.
My over-arching goal in this role is to make the user experience easier and more straightforward from registration and check-in when they arrive all the way through when they leave. I also want that experience to be mirrored for the staff so that it’s easier and faster for them to get users set up and processed too. That could be something as simple as identifying that the photocopier we had at the front desk was really slow, so we replaced that to speed up check-in.
What can people do to make that work easier?
The user satisfaction survey that is emailed out is very useful. Not only saying, “I liked it,” or “I didn’t like it,” but the detailed explanations and suggestions are always great to hear. We’ll incorporate those as we can. It really should be a hand-in-hand process. Users can give us feedback to make it work as best as possible for them.
I’m very open to feedback and suggestions on anything the User Office can do to improve everyone’s experience. We can try to make the process better ourselves, but we won’t know unless the users fill out the survey.
How did your first User Meeting go?
I was really happy with it! I had only an inkling of what it was going to be like, because I’d never attended it in the past. I’ve done other meetings for other divisions that were not the same scope and scale, so I got a picture of what it was going to be as we went along, and in the end, I was really satisfied with how it came out. I definitely have some notes for further improvements for future meetings.
The changed format of having one day of main sessions and then two full days of workshops and tutorials was received really well. One of the main goals of the meeting is getting people to understand what can be done here, from fine-tuning their current research to understanding another capability that might apply to their work and learning how to integrate it into their research. We also want to have more people accessing the meeting—students and folks for whom the registration fee or transportation costs could be limiting factors. We have some ideas for them as well.
What do you do in your spare time?
On the weekends, I spend a lot of time with my two kids. I’m also an avid sports fan and outdoor enthusiast—I love backpacking, hiking, and camping in the Sierras. I do love to eat, so I’m always looking out for new places around town.
I’ve been involved in the Lab Softball League for many years and am one of the commissioners now. I play on the Animals—that came out of the Animal Facility from Life Sciences years ago—we won this past year’s championship. It’s a lot of fun. We play on Maxwell Family Field on Wednesdays, and afterward, we go to La Val’s and have some pizza and beers.