Ben Feinberg, Interim Deputy Director for Science
Although officially retired, in May I agreed to help the ALS part-time in light of Bob Schoenlein’s new role helping to plan for a next generation light source at Berkeley Lab. As the ALS Interim Deputy Director for Science, I now have the opportunity to work with a different part of the ALS organization than I did previously: the ALS Scientific program. As many of you know, I have been with the ALS since its first day as an operating program, April 1, 1993. Over a 15-year period I have primarily played three roles: Head of (Division Deputy for) Operations, Deputy Division Director, and Division Deputy for Planning and Administration.
I am pleased to be working, once again, with the beamline scientists and the management of the Experimental Systems and Scientific Support Groups, and am happy to be working directly, for the first time, with the ALS User Services Group and with the many scientists who form our User Community. My primary goal is to help ensure that the research program at the ALS has the highest scientific impact, working with beamline scientists and user groups to achieve this goal.
In brief, this activity 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). The scientific vitality of the ALS is only maintained through the use of the peer review process of proposal evaluation and recommendations. I work with the User Services Office to organize external peer review and PSP evaluations of the ~300 new proposals that are submitted in each six month cycle, along with the Approved Program (AP) proposals. The PSP and the SAC meet twice each year, with the PSP focusing on General User (GU) and AP proposals, and the SAC providing important strategic advice and recommendations on the ALS scientific programs. Complementing GU access, I allocate Director’s Discretionary time to provide limited access to beamlines in order to initiate new research directions or for compelling experiments that warrant rapid access. Please see Bob Schoenlein’s Ring Leader column from June 2010 for further details on peer review at the ALS.
The SAC met this month, providing advice on the plans for beamline renewal – continuing the replacement of beamlines as part of our strategic plan. There was also a lively exchange of ideas regarding the microscopy review with strong interest in maintaining ALS leadership with soft x-ray spectromicroscopy. Among other items, the SAC received reports on our ongoing accelerator and beamline projects, and was pleased to hear from several beamline scientists on LDRD projects related to the Lab's Carbon Capture 2.0 initiative. The increasing need for computational support in data analysis due to the huge quantities of data generated by the newest, high-capacity detectors was also discussed.
Since I am officially retired, I try to spend most of my time doing research. I am working with a research program to measure the Electric Dipole Moment of the electron. This program currently has a discovery LDRD, headed by David Kilcoyne, in collaboration with Harvey Gould, Charles Munger, and George Kalnins, along with Hiroshi Nishimura. We are presently developing the technology to make the experiment feasible. In the actual experiment we plan to launch cold (micro-Kelvin) radioactive francium atoms in an atomic fountain through a strong electric field and look for changes in the atomic state of the outer electron as we reverse the field. The experiment builds upon the strengths of LBNL, since we plan to make use of expertise with permanent magnet devices (to efficiently slow and trap the francium), accelerator optics (to focus the francium beam), cold atom traps, and project management to keep track of the various activities as the collaboration grows.