For more than 10 years, Will Chueh has been an ALS user. He started coming to the ALS as a grad student using one technique, and now, as an assistant professor at Stanford University, his group uses multiple techniques and multiple user facilities to better understand energy storage materials. Chueh also serves as chair of the ALS Users’ Executive Committee (UEC).
When did you first start coming to the ALS?
I first came to the ALS in 2008 when I was a grad student at Caltech. I started working at Beamline 9.3.2 with Zhi Liu on the surface chemistry of cerium oxide, the catalyst used in high-temperature fuel cells. Very quickly my colleagues and I branched out to Beamline 11.0.2, working with Hendrik Bluhm on ambient-pressure XPS. Through those collaborations I met some researchers at Sandia National Lab, which led to my postdoc there in 2010. During my postdoc, we started a new project with Tolek [Tyliszczak] purely by coincidence. He was helping us fix a problem at 11.0.2, and he suggested using the STXM. That’s actually how we started looking at batteries, which turned out to be enormously productive, even today.
How do you use the ALS in your research today?
We use a wide combination of techniques, mainly to understand energy storage materials. Early on we did surface and interfacial chemistry, so mostly XPS. Then we realized it’s important to see the material spatially, so that led to microscopy. Then we realized the microscopy should be in situ to track the dynamics of the material, which led to the development of various sample environments within STXM. More recently we’ve been using complementary techniques, working closely with Wanli [Yang] and Jinghua [Guo] on RIXS. We’re lucky to be so close that we’re able to iterate very quickly between preparation in the lab and characterization at the ALS. We also try to couple high-energy hard x-rays at SSRL with the soft x-ray work at ALS. Additionally, we work very closely with the Molecular Foundry on theory with David Prendergast, so that closes the loop for our materials development cycle.
How did you become involved with the UEC? What are your goals as chair?
I think it was Hendrik who first told me that if I wanted to be more involved with the ALS and see how it works behind the scenes, I should join the UEC. So I put my name forward to be nominated, and joined in 2015. It’s definitely been an eye opener and a learning experience.
I think the most important goal for the UEC is to make itself more accessible to users and increase the benefits of the UEC to the users. In particular, we want to improve outreach to younger users. We also want to make it easier for users to get acquainted with new techniques. I myself use four or five techniques, and you’ll find that most power users do exactly that. That’s what’s driving the reorganization of the User Meeting this year to offer more tutorials. We’re also trying to improve joint access to the ALS and Molecular Foundry, advertising and making available this model of, come to the Lab, you can do a lot of great things here in one stop. The hope is to increase user productivity and, ultimately, make the science better.
What do you like to do outside of work?
Pre-kids, I was an avid outdoor photographer. I traveled all over California and knew all the great spots. I also enjoy nature—hiking and camping. I really like the eastern Sierras along Highway 395. One of the things I always joke about is that I thought, after moving to the Bay Area from SoCal, I’d get to explore the Sierra mountains more. But in the winter, I have to drive almost all the way to LA to get to the Sierras. I have young kids, and I’m looking forward when they’re older to showing them nature. I always tell people that when you take photos, it’s very similar to science. You’re trying to see order in chaos. That’s the common theme I really like between science and photography.