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ALSNews Vol. 276 Gary Krebs Print

Gary Krebs, ALS User Services Group Leader, 1943–2007

Gary KrebsGary Krebs, the popular leader of the ALS User Services Group, passed away suddenly on the evening of May 22 in the midst of travel to Long Island for his annual visit to attend the National Synchrotron Light Source user meeting at Brookhaven National Laboratory. When he missed his nightly telephone call home, his worried wife asked his hotel to check on him. The Security Manager entered his room and found Gary sitting peacefully in a chair with no sign of distress. He was 63 years old. In addition to his wife Kathy, he leaves behind one son, Matthew, and in Vancouver, British Columbia, a brother, Dennis, and his parents.

Since arriving at the ALS in 1993, Gary had major impacts in several important areas: bringing the nascent accelerator survey and alignment system into adulthood as a functioning, productive tool, leading the first Users Services Group as it evolved to serve an ever-larger user community, playing a significant role as the ALS representative (and recently becoming Chair) to the Berkeley Lab Best Practices Diversity Council and its creation of a roadmap to convert the idealistic words of workplace diversity into reality, and as the ALS representative to the Lab group that has been formulating plans for an on-site 60-room Berkeley Lab Guest House, patiently but persistently prodding to keep the project moving. For the last two years, he also served as Deputy Scientific Director to the late Neville Smith and then as Deputy Science Advisor to Janos Kirz.

ALS Director Roger Falcone remembers, “Gary had sincere dedication to the people of the ALS. His enthusiasm was palpable for important projects that could benefit both users and staff, such as the guest house, the Lab diversity council, and support for visiting students, and we shared in his pleasure in his successes in this work. I will miss his ability to generously welcome users to the ALS, his skills in shepherding our review processes, and his wisdom in helping to lead the ALS for many years.” Former Director Janos Kirz echoes these sentiments, “Over the past three years I had the privilege to work closely with Gary, and I learned a lot from him. He was devoted to the ALS, and in particular to the users of the ALS. He worked hard to make the Guest House a reality, and his efforts are now bearing fruit. His passing is a great loss to all of us, and to me personally.”

Born Gary Frederick Krebs in Vancouver on November 7, 1943, Gary spent part of his youth in California, where his father was a much-in-demand maker of guitars for the budding generation of 60s rock musicians. He attended high school at Sequoia High in Redwood City on the San Francisco peninsula and eventually made his way to Berkeley, where he graduated from the University of California in 1972. He returned to Canada to continue his graduate studies in nuclear physics at the University of Toronto, where he earned M.Sc. (1974) and Ph.D. (1980) degrees. Back in Berkeley again, he joined Berkeley Lab as a career employee, serving the user program at the Bevalac heavy-ion accelerator as the Operations Liaison Officer, as well as coordinating several accelerator improvement projects and collaborating first on many heavy-ion programs and later moving into biomedical programs, such as heavy-ion radiation therapy.

Meanwhile, the ALS construction was being completed and the transition to an operating user facility began, bringing along a number of Bevalac staff, including Gary. Initially, as a member of the ALS Operations Group, he plunged into the survey and alignment task that was crucial to operation of the accelerator, since the behavior of the electron beam depends sensitively on where the components, such as the magnets, actually are. He overhauled the system software, bringing it to a point where it reliably translated measurements into useful metrology data. During this period, he also coordinated several installation shutdowns at the ALS.

With the publication of a report by the DOE BESAC subcommittee co-chaired by Robert Birgeneau (now Chancellor of UC Berkeley) that rated the ALS below other DOE light sources in some areas, Berkeley Lab management began a revitalization program that included an overhaul of the ALS scientific and user programs. At this time, Gary took over as the first head of the new User Services Program, whose various sections are the primary interfaces between the ALS and its user community for almost every purpose other than the operation of the beamline and conduct of the experiment. A particularly challenging task was reworking the proposal selection process. Working with the Neville Smith and the Users’ Executive Committee, Gary helped guide this process, which is still evolving as the number of programs and users grow. As Group Leader, by making resources and slots available, he also was a leading supporter of the Center for Science and Engineering Education’s High School Student Research Participation program, which has turned out to be a great success for meeting the needs of talented Bay Area high schools students interested in science and engineering careers.

The Berkeley Lab Guest House was a facility of great importance to Gary. The Guest House addresses a concern frequently voiced by the user community: a lack of convenient, affordable, and short-term accommodations on the LBNL campus for faculty, post doctoral associates, students, and other visitors to affiliated UC Berkeley science facilities. It is projected that ALS users would constitute about half of the Guest House clientele. Realizing the large stake the ALS had in its successful completion, Gary worked tirelessly to keep it on the Berkeley Lab management’s radar, particularly important during the transition in Laboratory leadership from Chuck Shank to Steve Chu.

Gary was most definitely not a person of all work and no play. He was a passionate wood worker with his own home shop. He was known to travel long distances, including jaunts in a four-wheel drive through the back roads of Mexico, to gather precious wood specimens, as well as gem stones and basket materials for his wife’s artistic pursuits. He was a champion poker player, as evidenced by a plaque on the wall at the UC Berkeley (Men’s) Faculty Club, where he was the Club title holder several years running. And he was an enthusiastic participant for many years in the Berkeley Lab softball league, as well as a regular jogger.

In one of those ironies of life, Gary was preparing for a much-earned retirement this fall when his life ended. His family has not yet announced funeral or memorial service arrangements.