|2013 ALS User Meeting Highlights|
This year’s ALS User Meeting launched with a welcome from Users’ Executive Committee Chair Corie Ralston and LBNL Director Paul Alivisatos. ALS Director Roger Falcone followed with a “state of the ALS” presentation that began with a reminder of the ALS mission, which he noted remains true even in the midst of a government shutdown: “Supporting users in doing outstanding science in a safe environment.” Falcone gave the 414 meeting attendees an update on the ALS beamlines, which included good news about increased user numbers thanks to the new RAPIDD access system, enhanced robotics, and remote capabilities. Falcone reflected that ALS metrics continue to represent our highly productive users—the number of journal articles and papers per user that come from ALS research have continued to grow in the past year. Looking forward, Falcone touched on how a proposed ALS upgrade to a diffraction-limited light source would increase scientific capabilities.
With DOE travel cancelled due to shutdown, the meeting’s scheduled DOE update was filled with a presentation by the Lab’s own government relations representative, Don Medley, on how to talk about science with elected representatives. Medley spoke about framing discussions with politicians in terms of the “value of our country’s science ecosystem.”
The keynote speaker series began with the director of Argonne National Lab’s Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR) George Crabtree—via video conference—speaking about the challenges and opportunities in energy storage science. Crabtree encouraged his audience of scientists to look beyond lithium ion batteries to the next generation of battery capabilities and presented numerous ways that synchrotron science can move that process forward. Next up was UC Berkeley’s Michael Eisen, who gave an engaging presentation on the transformation of scientific research communication. Eisen, a biologist and an associate professor of genetics, genomics, and development, is also the founder of the Public Library of Science (PLOS), which is a nonprofit publisher that seeks to make research publication more open and immediately available. Jim Krupnick, recently retired Berkleley Lab COO, then took the stage to reflect on the early days of the ALS and its construction history, especially appropriate in this 20th anniversary year. Krupnick regaled the audience with entertaining vignettes and rarely seen historical photos. UC Berkeley’s Jamie Cate gave the final keynote, which was focused on high-resolution structures of the ribosome, many of which were determined at the ALS.
ALS staff updates included User Services group lead Sue Bailey, who introduced the new ALS user portal and RAPIDD access system. Christoph Steier, deputy group leader of the ALS Accelerator Physics Group, gave an ALS accelerator update. Recent upgrades have improved brightness at the ALS by a factor of three, while storage ring RF upgrades and low-conductivity water upgrades have also been implemented this year. Looking to the future, Steier spoke about the dramatic improvements in brightness and coherence that would be possible with a diffraction-limited upgrade. The proposed ALS upgrade, termed ALS-II, would follow the trend of international user facility activity toward brighter storage rings. Steve Kevan, deputy division director for science at the ALS, went on to elaborate on how the ALS-II would benefit user science in general and various beamlines in particular.
Next up was the ever-popular student poster competition, followed by a reception that gave the 23 students a chance to field questions about their work and 34 exhibitors an opportunity to introduce their wares to users. First prize went to Royce Lam of UC Berkeley’s Saykally Group, for his research using x-ray absorption spectroscopy to probe ions in solution.
Tuesday morning featured this year’s David Shirley Award winner, North Carolina University’s Harold Ade, speaking about his achievements in polymer science. This year’s student poster award winner also had a chance to present and field questions about his research. The morning progressed with science highlight presentations by ALS users working in a variety of research areas.
Tuesday’s awards dinner was a celebratory gathering of ALS users recognizing exceptional synchrotron science. The Klaus Halbach Award for Innovative Instrumentation went to Chris Jozwiak of the Lab’s Materials Science Division and the Tim Renner User Services Award for Outstanding Support to the ALS User Community went to John Pepper of the ALS Berkeley Center for Structural Biology. Descriptions of the awards and more photos of the recipients will be posted soon.