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Ring Leaders
January 2012 Print

Roger Falcone, Director's Address


I welcome all members of the ALS community back for a new year. We had a fine 2011 that included an excellent review by the Department of Energy as well as the launching of a number of new activities. We are starting 2012 with the promise of healthy funding for both user operations and machine and beamline projects.

One of our primary jobs is to keep the ALS machine both reliable and at the forefront of synchrotron brightness. To accomplish this, we are upgrading our RF system with new klystrons, modernizing our control systems, and building new sextupole magnets to tighten the electron beam in the storage ring. These are long-term projects, some began under the stimulus funding in 2009, but all are on track, and those that require on-going funding have seen consistent support from DOE.

Another job we have is to work with users to develop new photon science capabilities that are needed for world-leading science. We are progressing well on beamline projects including MAESTRO (for nanoscale resolution photoemission studies), COSMIC (for advanced coherent scattering measurements and high-resolution diffractive imaging), and the SEMATECH EUV Project (supporting the industrial consortium that is developing the next generation of computer chips).

Many beamlines, including those supporting the basic science of sustainable energy technologies, benefit from partnerships with other divisions at LBNL. These include combustion studies with the Chemical Sciences Division (see this month's science highlight on Criegee intermediates), battery studies with the Material Sciences Division, and carbon capture and sequestration studies with the Earth Sciences Division. These collaborations build on other activities, such as working on advanced data handling with the Computing Division, studying new systems for artificial photosynthesis with the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP Energy Hub), and of course our strong history of collaboration with the Engineering and Accelerator, and Fusion Research Divisions.

User demand continues to grow, but with anticipated flattening of funding in coming years, we may see a stabilization in total research output (for example the number of papers) from ALS users, as our capabilities to serve increasing numbers of users depends on our total number of staff. Of course, we work to be more efficient and we make trade offs in the capabilities we offer, as new and important activities grow.

To help our users better connect with the ALS, this year we are working on a new Web portal where users can submit proposals, arrange visits, learn about safety, communicate regarding experimental setup, and post publications.

Additional priorities for this year include bringing our construction projects to completion on time and on budget. We are working with partners to propose new beamlines, including AMBER, which will address the basic science of energy technologies under real, operational (in situ) conditions, a capability necessary for greater understanding of processes like catalysis or components such as fuel cells. We are continuing to explore ways of having more theoretical support for photon sciences, fielding high data rate x-ray detectors, and processing data in real time so that feedback to users doing experiments can help them be more productive.

There is a lot to learn about our activities at ALS, and I urge you to take a look at our website, especially if you haven’t recently ( There we highlight our science, point toward fun activities such as our bi-monthly Science Cafés, and provide links to helpful information, encouraging all of you to participate in ALS planning.

November 2011 Print

Michael Banda, Deputy Division Director for Operations


As the relatively new Deputy Division Director for Operations, I have found that there is never a dull moment at the ALS.  While we have many challenges in these difficult political times that are wrought with uncertainty, we enjoy strong support from our users and from the Office of Basic Energy Sciences.  This shows in the investments being made in us: beamlines are being improved, and new ones (MAESTRO and COSMIC) are being constructed.  In addition, we are in the process of completing several upgrades to the synchrotron that will increase our brightness and reliability.  These upgrades include an improved storage ring RF ,a controls upgrade, new power supplies, and new sextupole magnets to decrease horizontal emittance and thus increase brightness.  Curiously, I have become quite enamored of the machine.  It is probably due to my training as a biologist that makes me occasionally think of our synchrotron as a living organism.  It seems alive and I am convinced that sometimes it expresses an attitude, good and annoying – fascinating.

It has been a year-and-a-half since I joined the ALS, and I have had the benefit of moving into a great organization with an outstanding staff. I came to particularly appreciate the quality of ALS and our staff when Roger asked me to help shepherd the BES triennial review that took place in March of this year.  I will never describe such an event as fun, but it was, however, a wonderful opportunity for me to learn and experience the skill and dedication of the people that work at the ALS.  Yes, our machine and beamlines are first rate, but our people are even better.  It was remarkable for me to see how everyone pulled together to achieve the best review possible, truly befitting of an organization that epitomizes the “Big Science” concept advanced by E.O. Lawrence.  I am struck by all the skill sets that are necessary to keep us making and using light.  The pride in being from, or associated with, the ALS is palpable.  Through enabling and doing cutting-edge science that result in more than 600 publications per year, to keeping the machine in top form,  all members of the ALS  have much to be proud of.  A member of one of our advisory boards introduced herself to me shortly after I joined ALS.  She told me that she uses many synchrotrons but that ALS is her favorite, and she likes coming here the best.  I can understand why.  I am very pleased to be working for you.

I wish you a safe and happy holiday season.

October 2011 Print

Peter Denes, Head, Photon Sciences Initiative


I joined the ALS family in 2007, filling the newly created position of ALS Division Deputy for Engineering. Because a large percentage of ALS staff are part of the Engineering Division, this position was created to establish shared management in the two divisions to ensure better integration and coordination between engineering and non-engineering ALS staff.

My natural connection to the ALS is as a detector developer—after all, what you get is what you see. A 2005 strategic LDRD-funded initiative nucleated a virtual detector group, consisting of members of the Integrated Circuit Design and Electronic Systems groups in the Engineering Division, in collaboration with the Microsystems Lab with support from members of the Physics Division. This team developed a prototype fast direct-detection CCD that has been used both to explore new concepts and to enable experiments at the ALS, APS, and LCLS. Based on that work, we received ARRA funds to develop megapixel frame-store (electronic shutter) detectors reading out at 200 frames/second. Eight of those systems, as seen in the photo on the right, will be delivered to the ALS next year.

This virtual detector group has continued to grow, and in addition to the detector itself, we have also developed high-speed data acquisition and processing electronics capable of in-line firmware data processing. High-speed readout enables dynamics, simultaneous position/energy detection, and simple efficiency, but it generates huge volumes of data. A growing challenge will be to develop effective strategies for dealing with the massive amount of data resulting from high-speed readout.

With funds from the BES Accelerator and Detector R&D program, the team is developing even faster detectors (approaching 10,000 megapixel frames/second) while improving direct detection soft x-ray (and electron) performance.

Presently, my time is spent helping to plan for a Next Generation Light Source. The scientific and technical case that Berkeley Lab put forward for a high-repetition-rate x-ray free-electron laser array has resulted in a broad national consensus on the need for such a facility, and many of us continue to vigorously pursue R&D on key technical challenges in order to be ready as soon as a project is formalized.

September 2011 Print

Christoph Steier, Accelerator Operations and Development


The operational performance of the ALS has improved continuously after overcoming the challenges presented by the injector upgrade to enable top-off operations in 2007. In the last six months, reliability, mean-time-between-failures and mean-time-to-recovery have reached levels never before achieved at the ALS (see this month’s article “Twelve Superlative User Weeks at the ALS”). This includes three periods of more than 10 days each without any unscheduled interruption. Performance at this level is the result of the hard and well-planned work of a large team of people.

The core operations groups at the ALS are combined under David Robin, the Division Deputy for Accelerator Operations and Development, and include the Accelerator Physics Group, the Accelerator Operations Group, the Floor Operations Section, and the ALS Procedure Center. They work closely together with many other groups, particularly in ALS Engineering, to maintain and continually improve the high-quality operations of the ALS.

One essential component in this improvement process is excellent communication between the various groups, including the sharing of work planning and feedback mechanisms, both of which also play essential roles in our integrated safety management strategy. In fact, many of the improvements in planning, communication, and quality assurance that were triggered by improvements in our safety culture have also resulted in significant improvements in operational reliability.

There are many ongoing projects to renew the ALS, upgrade its performance, and increase its capacity. After a period of relative quiet about 3–5 years ago, the recent past has been very active. Even though it is very exciting, at times it can also be challenging to execute all projects within the constraints of ALS’s lean staffing. Recent major upgrades to the accelerator include the RF upgrade (headed by Ken Baptiste), the instrumentation and controls upgrade (Greg Portmann), and the brightness upgrade (Arnaud Madur and myself). These upgrades will ensure that the ALS accelerator will remain competitive with the newest third-generation light sources in terms of brightness, stability and reliability. We also support the ALS engineering groups in implementing new beamlines, including the installation of new, advanced insertion devices as part of the ALS strategic plan. I am very proud to be a member of this strong and dedicated team that keeps the ALS at the forefront of synchrotron light sources.

I want to emphasize that we warmly welcome input and feedback from users and staff. It is often your input that has proven to be essential in helping us to improve the facility. A good and informal opportunity to talk with us or ask questions is the bi-weekly user forum (cookie time). You can also contact us at any time to provide operational input or express concerns:

Christoph Steier, 510-495-2992, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Tom Scarvie, 510-486-7697, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Warren Byrne, 510-486-7517, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

David Robin, 510-486-6028, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

August 2011 Print

Paul Adams, ALS Division Deputy for Biosciences


In my new role as ALS Division Deputy for Biosciences I am working with bioscience researchers at the ALS to develop an integrated strategic plan. Lab Director Paul Alivisatos, Physical Biosciences and Life Sciences Division Directors, and ALS leadership identified this activity as important for the future of Lab biosciences, and for making a case for new facilities such as the Next Generation Light Source. ALS management is justifiably proud of all of the bioscience research programs and looks forward to ongoing dialogue with them.

We are fortunate at the ALS to have a large community of biology research beamlines. There are eight macromolecular crystallography beamlines: 4.2.2, 5.0.1, 5.0.2, 5.0.3, 8.2.1, 8.2.2, 8.3.1, and 12.3.1. The latter beamline is unique in providing both crystallography and small angle X-ray scattering techniques. There are other unique resources at the ALS for tomographic imaging of biological systems: the National Center for X-ray Tomography, the use of infrared spectroscopy at the Berkeley Synchrotron Infrared Structural Biology Program, and the ABEX resource for Advanced Biological and Environmental X-ray spectroscopy. Collectively these biology resources are essential to research in the Physical Biosciences, Life Sciences, and Earth Sciences Divisions.

The ALS beamlines are used for solving real world problems. For example, Beamline 8.3.1 played a critical role in the development of a new anti-cancer drug by a Bay Area biotech company, Plexxikon. Plexxikon is a drug company formed on the idea of using atomic structure to develop scaffolds for drug development. They developed a novel, highly selective, oral drug that targets the cancer-causing BRAF mutation that occurs in about 50 percent of melanomas, 10 percent of colorectal cancers, and eight percent of all solid tumors. This drug, to be sold by Genentech under the name Zelboraf, was recently granted fast FDA approval.

Earlier this year I formed a Biosciences Council, with representation from bioscience beamlines at the ALS and researchers from UC Berkeley and UC Davis. At a recent council meeting there was discussion across a broad range of topics from how to promote ALS biosciences to the community, to which new beamline developments would enhance biological research. In response, I am convening a small group to develop new web-based material describing bioscience research resources at the ALS. This group will also create promotional materials for display at conferences. Leaders of current bioscience beamlines will also be planning new resources with the goal of obtaining funding. The council will provide a forum for discussions about the research potential of new sources such as the LCLS at Stanford, and the NGLS at Berkeley. I invite any interested bioscience researchers to contact me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it about participating in the Biosciences Council.

July 2011 Print

Elizabeth Moxon, ALS Communications Group Leader


How do you explain how a synchrotron works to a fidgety five-year-old and her tired parents? Well, you turn her into an electron, hand her a ping-pong ball “photon” and send her careening around a synchrotron obstacle course that has been painted in brilliant colors on the ALS parking lot. After she “accelerates” down a slide and gets an energy boost (granola bar) in the RF cavity (a tent), she reaches just the right energy level to shoot her “photon” at a target, her scientific experiment. Success! At the 1995 Berkeley Lab Open House, perhaps a future scientist has been born.


1995: Photon hits the target, and a tired “electron,” standing on the “undulator,” wants to hear the results of the experiment.

2010: Open House at the ALS (above and lower left) drew more than 1200 vistors over five hours.


For years, the ALS Communications Group has looked for fresh and effective ways to promote the scientific and technical achievements of ALS staff and users to the scientific community; to government agencies and stakeholders; and to the general public, teachers and students. From open houses for the general public to brochures, monthly newsletters, scientific highlights, and handouts, group members work to best present the successes of staff and users to our different audiences. With rapid changes in technology and the Web, we have developed new channels to keep our audiences up to date about ALS science and events.

user meetingOur new ALS Web site uses a content management system so that we can rapidly update information, and incorporates social media (Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube). Aside from maintaining and developing content for our main Web site and the staff-only Intranet, we create conference and workshop Web sites and publicity, organize bi-monthly Science Cafés, coordinate ALS participation in Lab-wide events such as the Berkeley Lab Open House, and give tours to members from the scientific, governmental, academic, and local communities.

Group members also take the opportunity to learn and share communication strategies from other facilities and light sources both locally and internationally. We attend facility user meetings, international science communication workshops (World Conference of Science Journalists, Public Communication of Science and Technology, AAAS, etc.) and local science cafés to keep on top of new ideas and trends in science communication and to share our own challenges and successes. We are members of Interlab, the organization of Webmasters and developers from DOE facilities, and sit on the management board of, the international collaboration of light source communicators.

The ALS Communications Group includes Shaunel Kanel, Elizabeth Moxon, and Lori Tamura, and this summer we are joined again by student intern Emma Floyd. We are always on the lookout for new stories, ideas, and events, and new ways to present them (although our days of painting a synchrotron in the parking lot are over). Later this summer we will be rolling out a novel way to present our science highlights, so keep your eyes open! And everyone is invited to contact us with their ideas at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or drop by our offices on the third floor of the new User Support Building (Rooms 316-320).




Keep up to date with ALS news, science highlights, and events by joining our social media outlets, including Facebook, Twitter, FlickR, and YouTube.


Group members and some of our recent projects....


communications group photo


From left: Liz Moxon, Lori Tamura, Shauna Kanel, and Emma Floyd.


June 2011 Print

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.

My Research:

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.


I welcome the user community to get in touch with me for any issues related to ALS access or the ALS Scientific Program. I also welcome your suggestions for improvement, since I am new to this position. The surest way to reach me is by email ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ). My work phone number is (510) 486-7725, and I pick up my messages regularly, but not every day.

May 2011 Print

Steve Rossi, Shutdown this Summer

The ALS is preparing for an extended shutdown that begins on June 13 and will extend until August 11 when user operations resume. This shutdown will be one of the busiest and most significant we have had since the Top-Off installation in 2008.

The most critical activity, and that which dictate the extended length of the shutdown, is an upgrade of the Storage Ring Radio Frequency (SRRF) system. This upgrade consists of three phases that will be completed over three years. In this first phase we will be installing and qualifying new klystron tubes as well as the associated infrastructure. When we return to operations we will be running on one of the new tubes. In future phases we will be permanently installing a second new klystron and a waveguide switch matrix that will provide for additional RF power for future machine upgrades as well as a robust back-up solution for reliable ALS operations.

Other installations planned for the shutdown period are also aimed at increasing the ALS's reliability, focusing on replacing aging power supplies for a number of our storage ring magnet families. Preparations will be made to enable the installation of our new multi-function sextupole magnets, scheduled for installation in the next shutdown. We will be modifying the storage ring in sector 6 and installing a new elliptically polarized undulator that will enable the simultaneous operation of our ultrafast beamlines 6.0.1 and 6.0.2. A full survey and alignment of the storage ring girders is also planned.

While not as exciting for our users as the technical upgrades, there are some important facility upgrades being made as well. The ALS dome will be getting a badly needed new roof and our low conductivity water plant is being upgraded to add 25% more flow capacity.

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