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June 2010 Print

Bob Schoenlein, Deputy Director for Science

Bob Schoenlein

As the ALS Deputy Director for Science, I have the opportunity to work with a broad cross-section of the scientists and staff in our organization – in particular, all the beamline scientists and the Division Deputies that lead the Experimental Systems and Scientific Support Groups, as well as the ALS User’s Office. Of course, my primary focus is on the science programs at the ALS: helping to insure that the research done at the ALS is of the highest scientific impact; helping to identify and develop new science directions and new user groups; and helping to advance and refine the ALS Strategic Plan.

This activity takes many forms, and involves the work of many people – both within the ALS and from the two primary ALS scientific committees: the Proposal Study Panel (PSP) and the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC). Peer review, evaluation, and recommendations are invaluable to insure the scientific vitality of the ALS. I work closely with the ALS User Office to organize the external peer review and PSP evaluation of the ~200 new proposals that are submitted for General User access to the ALS each six month cycle. I also arrange the external peer review of the more extensive Approved Program proposals (we typically receive several each cycle), which are subsequently evaluated by both the PSP and the SAC. The PSP and the SAC each meet twice per year, with the PSP focusing on General User and Approved Program proposals, and scoring consistency across the reviewer pool, while the SAC provides important strategic advice and recommendations on the broader ALS scientific programs. Complementing the General User access channels, I allocate Director’s Discretionary time to provide limited access to beamlines to initiate new research directions (providing the basis for future proposals) or for compelling experiments that warrant rapid access.

In addition to evaluating submitted scientific proposals, we have an on-going series of cross-cutting reviews at the ALS, typically two to three per year. These reviews bring in international experts to evaluate research activities across beamlines or across scientific areas, and to provide advice on new opportunities and areas for improvement. The most recent cross-cutting review covered Photon-in/Photon-out science, i.e., research areas based primarily on the spectroscopy of inelastically-scattered photons (RIXS, XES, fluorescence etc.). The next review will be in the area of Microscopy. In addition to these cross-cutting reviews, I organize regular reviews of the beamlines that are operated by Participating Research Teams (PRT). In January, we held a review of Structural Biology Programs at the ALS, covering the Protein Crystallography beamlines and the National Center for X-Ray Tomography. This will serve as the basis for renewal of their PRT agreements with the ALS. Regular internal reviews and peer evaluation of our scientific programs provide useful feedback for allocation of ALS resources, and for planning future research directions. Of course this is also invaluable for preparing for the triennial BES review that will be held in early 2011.

In my spare time, I try to maintain an active research program in ultrafast science. This program is part of the LBNL Materials Sciences Division (Ultrafast Materials Program) and the Chemical Sciences Division (Ultrafast X-Ray Science Laboratory). It involves laser-based research of dynamics in complex materials and molecular systems. This program also makes extensive use of ALS ultrafast beamlines 6.0.1 and 6.0.2. Additionally, I am contributing to the development of the scientific case for the Next Generation Light Source – most recently in the preparation of example science drivers (in response to questions posed by BES) and in the organization of a three day workshop focusing on condensed matter and materials physics applications for the Next Generation Light Source.

ALSNews Vol. 310