Director's Update: SAC Meeting, the Budget, BES Review, and Beyond
This has been a busy period at the ALS, as we adjust to a reduced Fiscal-Year 2008 budget and prepare for the triennial U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES) review of our facility that will take place March 4-6.
In December, we presented our Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) with a dry run of the material for the BES review, reports on progress and successes of the past three years, and our vision as we move forward in 2008 and beyond. The SAC provided valuable feedback, which we are incorporating into the materials being prepared for our review. Immediately after the SAC meeting, we held a focused, international workshop on High Average Power Lasers and High Harmonics and explored the state of such lasers for generating soft x-rays and seeding a next-generation, free-electron-laser-based soft x-ray source. This workshop was part of a continuing series sponsored by the Laboratory's Advanced Photon Science Initiative to examine how new technologies can help us meet the science requirements outlined in the BES Grand Challenges. (See the BES Workshop Reports Web site for a copy of the Grand Challenges report, which will help inform research directions at BES.)
Then in late December, the FY08 omnibus funding bill was announced, and federal science agencies received news of significant cuts in the President’s proposed budget, and we were informed of consequent reductions in ALS funding. The scientific societies (e.g., the American Physical Society) encouraged all members, including users of facilities, to contact their congressional representatives, senators, and the White House to convey their concerns about the impact of the budget.
As we continue preparations for our BES review, I want to thank all of you who responded to our requests to update publications lists, awards, and invited talks based on work carried out at the ALS. Our productivity over the last three years, which is the primary metric, has been extraordinarily high. But the reviewers will also want to hear how we plan to keep the ALS at the scientific forefront. With the present budget, this is a challenge—one that we share with the other light sources.
Our plans include continuing our successful efforts toward full top-off mode, and a careful review and optimization of our current allocation of resources. Big questions include, how do we grow critical program areas, such as enhanced metrology/optics and more capable detectors, while also focusing on our mission, our core capabilities, and our most scientifically productive beamlines? One of our goals is to continue to hire young people with great ideas through our postdoctoral program, to make sure that our next generation of scientists gets trained. I am confident that the cuts in federal science budgets will eventually be restored, so we also need to continue planning for new areas of science and technology that we believe will be important.
Berkeley Lab recognizes that the ALS doesn't only serve the needs of its users; it plays a key role in the broader dissemination of science and technology. So despite the difficult financial situation, I'm happy to say that the Laboratory has given us funds to improve the ALS lobby area so that we can better communicate this role to our visitors, ranging from school groups to political leaders. These improvements will be completed by the beginning of March.
Several of our major construction projects also have been affected by the budget cuts—including proposals for the renewal of Sector 7, called COSMIC and MAESTRO (declined along with all BES midscale instrumentation proposals this year) and the User Support Building (USB). Although the USB is still going forward, its completion date has been moved from 2009 to 2010/2011.
I am planning to go to Washington in February to visit BES, as budget allocations are made clearer, to explore ways to mitigate the most damaging cuts for ALS. Our support from BES remains strong, and we will continue to work with our funding agency and our users to most effectively use our resources, both current and future.
The Biological Implications of the PP2A Crystal Structure
Phosphatases, enzymes that remove a phosphate group from amino-acid substrates, can be subdivided according to their substrate specificity. Myriad evidence has demonstrated that protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A), a family of serine/threonine-specific (Ser/Thr) phosphatases, regulates many, if not most, aspects of cellular activities and is a critical tumor suppressor. A team at the University of Washington recently determined the first crystal structure of a PP2A holoenzyme (a form sufficient for full catalytic activity) composed of three different subunits (i.e., a heterotrimer). Their structure provides a foundation for understanding PP2A regulation, satisfactory mechanistic explanations for human tumorigenic mutations, and the structural basis for understanding PP2A substrate recruitment and specificity, a critical issue, given the high number of PP2A substrates. Read more...
Publication about this research: U.S. Cho and W. Xu, "Crystal structure of a protein phosphatase 2A heterotrimeric holoenzyme," Nature 445, 83 (2007).
Important Top-Off Progress
The ALS made a big step towards the successful completion of the top-off upgrade during November and December of 2007. The recommissioning of the injector complex was successfully completed and user operation was moved from injection at 1.5 GeV to full-energy injection at 1.9 GeV. Although all the hardware installations for this upgrade were completed at the end of 2006, the new power supply for the booster dipole chain failed during the final testing conducted by the vendor. This caused several days' delay in user startup in January 2007 and subsequently limited performance. A successful collaborative effort between the vendor and ALS engineers during the Thanksgiving shutdown in November resolved the problem.
Measured current waveforms during 1.9 GeV operation of the three main power supplies for the booster synchrotron. The bend magnet power supply delivers a peak power of about 2 MW.
The first beam operation of the booster synchrotron at up to 1.9 GeV occurred on December 3. During the following week, injection rates into the storage ring were improved, and full-energy injection became standard on December 11.
An immediate benefit of full-energy injection is that transients in air and cooling water temperatures—previously caused by the change in magnet currents for injection—disappeared (figure below), resulting in better stability of the accelerator. The goal in the coming months is to slowly increase the peak stored current to 500 mA and reduce the time necessary for refills from 20 minutes to below 10 minutes. This would make it possible to inject more often than the current schedule of eight hours between refills and could result in a significant increase in average flux and brightness even before full top-off operation. Migrating to full-energy injection concludes the major hardware part of the top-off upgrade of the ALS.
Average air temperature in the ALS accelerator tunnel for a typical day with injection at 1.5 GeV (blue) as well as with full energy injection (red), showing the improved thermal stability.
UEC Corner: Introducing the 2008 Committee
I am very happy to introduce this year's ALS Users' Executive Committee (UEC). The 11 members are listed below, and you can find their contact information on the UEC Contacts Web page. As a group, we represent you—the ALS users—and your interests to the ALS management and funding agencies. In this role, we listen to your concerns and suggestions and rely significantly on your input. Please do not hesitate to contact any one of us if you want to bring an issue to our attention that concerns the ALS user community or your work at the ALS. I would also like to thank last year's UEC chair, Tony van Buuren, as well as Jinghua Guo and Simon Morton, who rotated off the UEC, for their contributions. Simon will remain on the UEC in a consulting capacity as a member of the User Support Building Committee and contact person for the protein crystallography community.
As Roger mentions in his Director’s Update, the ALS—along with many other national facilities—is facing severe challenges due to the FY08 budget cuts. We will work closely with ALS management to minimize the impact of those cuts on your research programs.
Despite the budgetary situation, 2008 features two high points for the ALS. First, we will have the opportunity to present the excellent work that is performed at the ALS to a DOE Basic Energy Sciences review committee that will visit Berkeley at the beginning of March. Every three years the DOE reviews all of its synchrotron facilities to obtain an overview of their programs and their user communities.
We are also looking forward to the 2008 ALS Users' Meeting. This meeting is the highlight for the UEC each year because it gives us the opportunity to gather the user community together and provide a forum to exchange ideas and experiences. The 2008 Users' Meeting program will be organized by Wayne Stolte and Phil Heimann, with the experienced support of the ALS User Services Office. Although we will not be having a joint meeting with the Molecular Foundry, as we did last year, we are discussing the possibility of doing so in the future. Again, we ask for your input on this important issue so that we can act in your interests.
We are looking forward to working for you in 2008.
2008 ALS UEC members:
- Hendrik Ohldag (Chair), Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (2006–08)
- Yves Acremann, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (2008–10)
- Elke Arenholz, ALS (2006–08)
Peter Fischer, Center for X-Ray Optics, Berkeley Lab (2007–09)
- Kenneth Goldberg, Center for X-Ray Optics, Berkeley Lab (2007–09)
- Heimann, ALS (2008–10)
- Franz Himpsel, University of Wisconsin, Madison (2007–09)
- Alessandra Lanzara, University of California, Berkeley; Materials Sciences Division, Berkeley Lab (2006–08)
- Anne Sakdinawat (Student), Materials Sciences Division, Berkeley Lab; University of California, Berkeley (2008–10)
- Wayne Stolte, ALS (2008–10)
- Tony van Buuren (Past chair), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (2005–07)
SAC Year-End Review and BES Dry Run
Scientific Advisory Committee, 2008. From left to right: Roger Falcone, Dung-Hai Lee, Keith Moffat, Sunil Sinha, Friso van der Veen, Nora Berrah, Philip Bucksbaum, Peter Johnson, Erwin Poliakoff, Jeff Bokor, Carolyn Larabell, Tony van Buuren, Ference Krausz, Sam Krinsky, and Steve Kevan.
The ALS Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) meeting on December 10 and 11 was extremely valuable, with preparation for the March 4-6 BES Review as the keynote agenda item. In addition to Facility talks, Committee members attended two poster sessions out on the ALS Floor, which were given as a dry run for the BES Review. SAC came up with very useful suggestions to help us prepare. In addition to the BES preparation, there were talks on detectors, nanomagnetism, the HELIOS project, and protein crystallography, and the Science for a New Class of Soft X-Ray Light Sources Workshop. All in all, it was a very valuable meeting.