Welcome to the Lab. Where were you before this?
I came here from NASA Ames, where I was the program manager for the SOFIA Science Center for three years. SOFIA is an airborne infrared observatory, so it’s a big telescope in the back of a 747. Before that, I was a government contractor, leading the aviation practice for Booz Allen Hamilton, and before that, I spent 17 years at the Federal Aviation Administration. I started as an air traffic controller many years ago and subsequently was director of international air traffic control and also the FAA safety management system.
How does that connect to your work here?
There are a lot of parallels to be drawn. Any large, mission-oriented project has a similar operational tempo and similar needs in terms of the urgency to keep moving forward. The first big project that I led was a change in separation between aircraft across the entire Pacific Ocean. It was a four-year project to change the separation from 2000 feet minimum to 1000 feet minimum. I was the international lead, which included all the major Pacific countries plus Papua New Guinea. We had to agree on implementation and strategy, and one of the most time-consuming parts was monitoring aircraft so we could demonstrate that they could keep their altitude extremely accurately before we could safely move them closer together. We set up monitors on the ground that the aircraft flew over and measured their GPS against their altitude—where they thought they were versus where they actually were.
With ALS-U, the obvious parallel is having an operational goal to upgrade the ALS over multiple years. There’s also the parallels in the safety program. Aviation is usually known as sort of a high-risk industry, so the processes to ensure that level of safety are fairly similar here. I drove by Berkeley Lab every day on my commute, so I started looking into some of the work the Lab does and was very intrigued. I like working in a research or scientific environment, and now my commute is a little easier.
What is your vision for ALS-U?
The grand plans are still in incubation, but as project manager, my most important role is to enable the team to be successful. I view my role as clearing the path, setting up the infrastructure, giving them the tools they need to be successful. At this very early stage, I’m focused on the tools, like setting up an intranet and writing down processes and procedures. The timing is good, because ALS-U is in the nascent part of its development. We’re launching into a pretty exciting part of the project. So, getting those tools and processes set up now is the perfect time.
The project and the Lab have good processes and procedures in place. We’re going to add more web-based tools for requirements management and data management. Something that was already in the works when I started was forming an independent division level for the project. It’ll grow to be about 20 people; the rest of the team will be matrixed, but it gives people a project identity.
Our move into Building 46 was really important, even though moves can be inconvenient. The proximity is really important—I can walk across the hall and talk to the system manager for accelerator systems or HR. I encourage people to swing by Building 46 and say hello, and I look forward to a long tenure here at the Lab.
What’s coming up for ALS-U?
Things are going really well. We are moving toward baselining, which means that we have to demonstrate the design, associated plans, and scheduled costs are sufficiently mature. It’s a commitment from all parties that this is what we’re going to do.
We have productive, open lines of communication with SLAC, Argonne, Brookhaven, and other light sources. It’s obvious to me as a newcomer that the collegiality is excellent, so I have access to people and documentation from all those places that have gone through upgrades.
What do you do in your spare time?
I have one child still at home; my daughter Alex is a freshman in high school, so I spend a fair bit of time driving her to basketball games. I haven’t set it up quite yet, but I also play the double bass and I sing. Once I get a little more settled in, I’ll look for avenues to do that.