Steve Kevan, ALS Deputy Division Director for Science
ALS Deputy Division Director of Science Steve Kevan has a long and collaborative history with the ALS – he’s been involved with the facility since its planning stages, is a veteran user, a longtime member of the ALS Scientific Advisory Council, and was the first chair of the Users' Executive Committee.
It’s fitting then that Kevan joined the ALS in July shortly before our historically significant 20th anniversary. He brings insights drawn from his many years working with the ALS, his experience as a professor of physics at University of Oregon since 1986, and his own research, which is focused on undulator radiation. Kevan worked on the team that built the first beamline at the ALS and led the construction of Beamline 12.0.2 in 2001, which was a first step toward a dedicated and flexible coherent soft x-ray scattering and imaging beamline and has led to the construction of the COSMIC beamline.
In his new role at the ALS, one of Kevan’s primary directives has been to explore career development opportunities for beamline scientists and graduate students. Kevan says he started looking into professional development for scientists even before he joined the ALS – he describes it as an area that’s difficult to define at a facility devoted to serving users.
“As the ALS approaches middle age, many of our beamline scientists are approaching middle age as well,” says Kevan. “We need to make sure we are fostering an entrepreneurial, collaborative approach that serves them well.”
Kevan sees the ALS scientists as an integral part of the user experience. “We offer tools, but our beamline scientists are the experts in using those tools,” he says. “People need help using our tools and analyzing data, and our people are the keys to providing that service.”
Kevan is also focusing his initial efforts on building collaboration and community among scientific staff. At the urging of senior scientist Elke Arenholz, Kevan has created collaborative groups of beamline scientists organized by interest areas rather than management structure. Many of the scientists in these groups came together recently for a brainstorming workshop to discuss how the ALS might contribute to the DOE’s recent mesoscale research initiative.
“I’ve already seen beamline scientists discovering through these groups that some of their colleagues were doing things that they didn’t know about but found interesting,” Kevan says.
This collaborative approach focused on research areas will guide some of Kevan’s other big-picture projects this year as well. Most immediately, he’s working on the ALS strategic plan, which he’s organizing by scientific subject areas that will align with internal “cross-cut” reviews, which are focused on subject areas rather than beamlines. Kevan hopes to have cross-cut reviews for each subject area every three years.
“Our goal is to be a ‘collaboratory,’ not just a user facility,” says Kevan. “We want to help people solve problems, use our facility better, make progress, and collaborate with them.”