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From the Director: Happy Holidays

As the days grow short and the winter solstice approaches, it is a time to reflect on the year that is ending and look forward to the new year to come.

The year 2008 started with one of the toughest challenges I have ever had to face. I went to the January 7, 2008, 8:00 a.m. meeting in the Main Control Center to announce the early shutdown of the B Factory and later that day, in my first all-hands as the new laboratory director, I announced the largest layoff in the history of the lab. Those first months of 2008 were incredibly tough, filled with very, very difficult decisions. As a laboratory and as a community, lab management and staff worked our way through that difficult period and we moved forward.

As we moved forward, we created new reasons for celebration. The B Factory finished its run in style, with beautiful physics harvested from experiments on the Upsilon 3S and 2S resonances—an elegant program created from the ashes of the foreshortened Upsilon 4S run that had been planned for the year. The successful June launch of the Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope (then GLAST) was exciting (and terrifying!) and the science coming from the instrument is exceptional. The lab was renamed to SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, an emotional and ultimately satisfying experience, highlighting accelerators as the core capability of the laboratory. The Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource served its users well, imaging important biological molecules, environmental samples and even a dinosaur.

The year ended with a wonderful sense of achievement and great optimism. The Linac Coherent Light Souce has started commissioning of the new kilometer of the electron transport line. Electrons are now travelling the full path needed for the LCLS, and first X-rays are anticipated this spring.

The year 2009 promises to be very exciting for the lab. Certainly, startup of the LCLS and the opening of the ultrafast frontier will dominate our local headlines. The lab will continue to grow as a leading lightsource and a center of excellence in particle physics, astrophysics and accelerator science. We will also have change at the national level as the Obama administration brings a new team to the Department of Energy. It is very exciting that Steven Chu, formerly chair of physics at Stanford and most recently director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is the nominee for Secretary of Energy. He is the most distinguished scientist to be in the Cabinet in decades and I look forward to his leadership and energy as he takes the helm at DOE.

I hope that after this stressful year, we can all take some time over the holidays to relax and enjoy friends and family. Last year at this time I wrote to you: "There may be storm clouds on the horizon and hidden shoals to navigate, but we know where we are sailing…. We will be challenged, but I know, as one lab, we will face the challenges, overcome the difficulties and produce science unrivaled by any establishment in the world." SLAC rose to the challenges that 2008 delivered to us, we faced them and we overcame them. The year 2009 will be, I believe, much smoother sailing, but no less exciting. So rest, recharge and get ready for the adventure!

—Persis Drell
SLAC Today, December 19, 2008