Reflecting on my first year as ALS director, I am amazed and proud of several major organizational changes, significant accomplishments, and staff recognitions, though of course there are still many challenges left for the future. Perhaps most importantly, we have survived the retirement of former Science Support Group Deputy Zahid Hussain, whose leading and enduring role in making the ALS the powerhouse facility it has become recently garnered him a DOE Secretary’s Distinguished Service Award as well as a Berkeley Lab Director’s Citation. In addition to his key role in developing the world’s leading soft x-ray facility, Zahid also left us with a cadre of fantastic beamline scientists. For example, bookending Zahid’s late-career recognitions, ALS Staff Scientist Ethan Crumlin received a DOE Early Career Award and a Berkeley Lab Director’s Award for Exceptional Early Career Achievement.
I’m pleased to report that the transition to a new top-level ALS management team is nearing completion. Earlier this fall I appointed Steve Rossi and Fernando Sannibale to fill the roles of deputy for business operations and deputy for accelerator operations, respectively, following Banda’s departure from the operations deputy role in fall 2017. We are currently conducting a search for a science deputy. Andreas Scholl has been filling this position in an interim capacity following my departure from the role after being appointed ALS director. Zahid’s retirement provided the opportunity to take a serious look at our science organizational structure as well. This summer we deployed a new Photon Science Group that is designed to build on our strong base in supporting outstanding user science and in developing innovative x-ray instrumentation. This group is led by Mike Martin and Elke Arenholz on the beamline operations side and Howard Padmore and Alastair MacDowell on the instrument development side. I am very grateful that all of these staff, who collectively have well over 100 years of experience at the ALS, have been willing (anxious, actually) to fill these new roles. This entire team loves the ALS and we are having great time working together to plot a future that is every bit as innovative as its past has been.
I want to turn now to those future challenges mentioned above. As you know, the ALS Upgrade Project (ALS-U) is now on track, having achieved the CD-1 milestone, which authorizes the start of engineering and design work, last September. The project is rapidly coming up to speed, with many new faces and an aggressive plan to accomplish this major upgrade on budget and on schedule. ALS-U offers a path to broad-based renewal of the ALS facility, including most obviously new, state-of-the-art accelerator systems. Beyond that, we tend to focus on important research capabilities enabled by ALS-U and its obvious impact on ALS scientific staff and users. But I want to emphasize that the impact of ALS-U will be much broader than that, including career development opportunities for operations, accelerator, and engineering staff across the ALS and in several other LBNL divisions. Realizing all those tangible and intangible opportunities will require serious effort for several years to come.
With diverse input from the user community, ALS staff developed a very strong science case for ALS-U that addresses key challenges in material, chemical, environmental, and biological sciences that are well aligned with the priorities of the Department of Energy and of other research funding agencies. The ALS scientific staff continues to play an important role in preparing for ALS-U science: leading the plan for ALS-U experimental systems described elsewhere in this newsletter, helping to prioritize how the ALS should invest its own resources before the upgrade, and generally advising on a path for a vibrant ALS future. They are presently developing detailed, actionable plans for beamlines and experimental endstations to ensure a highly successful early science program with the upgraded ALS. Continued user input in that discussion is welcome.
Finally, I want to note that we have started a new conversation about the overall ALS culture, including diversity, equity, and inclusion, work-life balance, staff professional development, and myriad related issues. Some of these issues present unique challenges at a facility that operates 24/7 with a mission focused on collaborative user science. They also encompass science, operations, accelerator, and engineering staff, though sometimes with important nuanced differences. All of the future planning discussed above is being done with inclusive internal processes that have deeply engaged the external user community through advisory committees, workshops, user meetings, online forums, and day-to-day interactions on the ALS floor. I encourage our users to talk to staff about this conversation and even to get involved if you wish; this is, after all, an inclusive discussion. Progress in these areas is very important to our future.
In closing, I will say that I am honored to serve as ALS director and am working hard to ensure an innovative and productive future for the facility. It’s been an interesting and energizing first year, and I look forward to continued strong engagement with the ALS staff and community.