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PCDS Keeps LCLS Users and Data Connected
Finance Workshops at Stanford

SLAC Today

Wednesday - February 24, 2010

PCDS Keeps LCLS Users and Data Connected

Just some of the PCDS group members in the AMO experimental hutch. From the left front, clockwise: Satyajit Patwardhan, Tomy Tsai, Gunther Haller, Matt Weaver, Garth Brown, Bruce Hill, Wilfred Ghonsalves, David Simas, Chris O'Grady, Evan Rodriguez, Gibson Locke, Ray Rodriguez, Sivakumar Ramanathan, Alf Wachsmann, Richard Dabney, Mark Arndt, Amedeo Perazzo, Perry Lee Anthony and Frank Hoeflich. (Photo by Julie Karceski.)

"Light experiments don't usually produce a volume of data comparable to particle physics experiments," said Head of the Electronics & Software Research Engineering department, Gunther Haller. "But then, there's never been a photon experiment quite like this."

The Linac Coherent Light Source is unique in many ways, and SLAC's Photon Controls and Data Systems group knows it. The group plays a key role in ensuring the safe delivery of data from its birth in the experiment instruments, all the way to completed analyses. To do so, the PCDS group is constantly adapting to the challenges that arise from such a state-of-the-art and totally unique machine.

PCDS was initially formed as a core group of four people, Gunther Haller, Chris O'Grady, Amedeo Perazzo and Matthew Weaver, but it evolved in a larger group that now includes the equivalent of about 28 full-time staff, mostly from the Particle Physics and Astrophysics Directorate, and a few from the Office of the Chief Information Officer. There are five subgroups in PCDS: Data Acquisition, Controls, Information Systems and Networking, Data Analysis and Applications, and Safety and Infrastructure. The group is now a crucial part of the busy and bustling LCLS community.

The LCLS generates packets of high-energy photons to examine the atomic and molecular structure of matter. Those photon packets come from electron beams accelerated down the SLAC linac, and will eventually be distributed to six LCLS experimental hutches. All of the hutches have their own unique instruments, which may use a variety of devices to view matter in different ways. LCLS users also often bring custom made or one-of-a-kind devices of their own.

The PCDS group designed and built the LCLS controls and data system, which connects scientists and users to the instruments in the experimental hutches. The system carries and processes data captured by the instrument detectors to the control room. There, scientists can see and analyze the data, as well as remotely operate and monitor all of the devices in the experimental hutch. But to make this possible, the PCDS group must adapt the system to each instrument and device. 

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