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From the Director: A Year of Achievement

(Photo - Persis Drell)
 (Photo by Brad Plummer.)

This morning Secretary Chu made an announcement that affects Department of Energy labs and facilities. We are seeking clarification, and I will have an all-hands meeting early in the New Year to discuss the secretary's message and its implications for SLAC with all of you.

Meanwhile, as another year draws to a close, I do not want the Secretary's message to in any way diminish our pride in the achievements at this lab this year. What a year it has been for SLAC! The transformation we started three years ago is taking off in ways I could never have predicted. The pace and continuity of our progress is impressive and is applauded by everyone from the Scientific Policy Committee to the Department of Energy. And yet, with an attitude I admire and want to encourage, you are pushing to achieve more and to progress faster. We are far from done. Cosmologists talk about the accelerating universe, driven by dark energy. We at SLAC are the accelerating laboratory, driven by your energy!

Let me just review a few vignettes from the year:

New leadership:

  • Chi-Chang Kao arrives from Brookhaven National Laboratory to lead SSRL and he hits the ground running in August, developing an exciting strategic plan for the future of the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource.
  • We hire Norbert Holtkamp to be the associate laboratory director of the Accelerator Directorate, bringing tremendous leadership and experience to the laboratory.
  • Heads turn when we recruit Jens Nørskov from Denmark and Harold Hwang from Japan to lead major photon science programs at SLAC. We attract Linda Rakow from Livermore to be SLAC's chief financial officer.
  • ZX Shen becomes SLAC's chief scientist and leads an energy task force that promises an exciting report in the New Year.

New projects and completion of old projects:

  • Craig Ferguson steps up and completes the Cooling Tower 101 replacement; the Research Support Building project gets on track and ramps up. These activities and the overall success of our project management and oversight position the lab to get future buildings.
  • Critical Decision 0 for LCLS-II is signed one hour after the Linac Coherent Light Source hits the final technical milestone for CD-4 by getting X-rays to the Far Experimental Hall. Wow! That happened fast!
  • We present the DOE with our new site plan and they like it! Ultimately we get CD-0 approval for a new Science and User Support Building to replace Panofsky Auditorium and the cafeteria.
  • The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope receives a green light to move forward after being ranked as the top ground-based project in the Decadal Survey of Astronomy and Astrophysics. CD-0 is anticipated early in 2011 and SLAC will be the lead lab for the DOE effort on the camera. Congratulations to Steve Kahn and the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology!
  • We have cell phone coverage on the site (finally!) thanks to some very clever moves by Don Lemma and the Computing Division.


  • After successful X-ray imaging of an Archaeopteryx fossil, two more specimens from Berlin were studied at SSRL, including the original feather—the first specimen of Archaeopteryx ever described. The elemental maps generated by X-rays are being used by scientists to shed light on the origin of birds.
  • The Enriched Xenon Observatory turns on in its new underground home at the WIPP site in New Mexico, and data taking will commence next year.
  • The ECHO experiment in Endstation B produces very interesting results and attracts attention from accelerator scientists around the world.
  • The first LCLS papers are in print. With three experiments taking data and a fourth in commissioning, we expect an increasing flow of exciting results.
  • The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope publishes its 100th paper.
  • The Large Hadron Collider turns on for real and a new high energy frontier is being explored.

Prizes and recognitions:

We deal with the disruptive and the unexpected:

  • The Facilities Division leads a heroic response to a major power outage in January.
  • The laboratory moves! The photon scientists move into newly remodeled quarters in Building 40. The Particle Physics and Astrophysics theory group moves to their new quarters in the ROB. LCLS staff move to the newly completed Building 901.

After the excitement of the year, I hope everyone will be able to take some down time with friends and family over the break. We should all feel proud of where we are taking SLAC as well as the way we are getting there. We work safely, we plan as One Lab, we have a respectful workplace, but as is evident, we play to win!! Above all, this outstanding progress has required tremendous dedication and hard work. Change and progress on the scale and at the pace we have seen at SLAC does not happen easily. Since the job is not yet done, it is important that you relax, recharge your battery and get ready for the excitement to come!

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

—Persis Drell
SLAC Today, December 17, 2010