Peter Nico, recently appointed chair of the UEC, brings a varied user perspective to his new post: like many environmental science users, Nico has worked at a number of different ALS beamlines, from hard x-ray tomography to x-ray diffraction to STXM to infrared. It’s the combination of these multiple capabilities that he sees as one of the greatest assets the ALS has to offer users.
Nico’s research is focused on soil chemistry, specifically looking at carbon and how it’s stored in soil. He and his fellow researchers use the ALS to understand the chemistry of carbon in soil – understanding how it changes, what types of minerals it associates with, and what makes it more or less stable.
Nico has worked in the Earth Sciences division of the Berkeley Lab since 2005 and has served on the UEC for the past two years, which has given him time to develop an understanding of ALS user needs. He sees the near future as an important and interesting time to be representing users, as the ALS grapples with fiscal challenges and continues developing plans for an upgrade project.
“It’s a really interesting time to be chair of UEC,” says Nico. “We’re doing our best to represent users during these changing times at the ALS.”
The budgetary realities that the ALS faces are inevitably going to reduce options available to users, so Nico sees the role of representing their needs during this process as particularly important. Likewise, as the ALS plans and prepare for an upgrade, Nico wants to be sure users’ needs are kept at the forefront of the discussion.
“There’s this balance between being on the cutting edge and providing workhorse capabilities,” he says. “Not every beamline needs to be on the cutting edge; there is great science that can be done with average x-ray techniques and then there’s great science that can only be done with cutting-edge x-ray techniques and I think the ALS needs to serve both of those needs.”
In addition to representing users, Nico is particularly interested in developing new connections and dynamic communication streams between the UEC and the user community. He’s looking at various ways to streamline and encourage greater communication.