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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.