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Just in Time for Summer: SLAC Tours Program Ramps Up

After a two-year hiatus, the SLAC tours program is back! Following budget cuts in 2008, the program has been resurrected with a revamped Visitor Center, four new tour guides (all graduate students) and a new outreach manager, Pat Kreitz.

"Tours are back by popular demand," Kreitz said.

Many requests and inquiries about tours were received during the program's down time and requests have surged in recent months. As a result, SLAC is handling an increasing number of school group tours and the number of public tours offered will double from two to four a month in June.

"It's encouraging how many people are requesting tours of SLAC," said Director of Communications Rob Brown. "The new tour program is at the heart of our outreach effort to the community, starting with outreach to local schools."

Keith Bechtol, a third year graduate student in astrophysics, was particularly excited last summer when he started to hear rumors that SLAC would offer tours again. He jumped at the chance to become a tour guide.

"I feel like SLAC should be a community resource," Bechtol said. "A lot of education happens outside the classroom."

Now, as a SLAC tour guide, Bechtol enjoys answering questions and seeing visitors make connections on what they are learning about physics and SLAC science.

One such visitor, Deborah Cartelli, brought her two children on a SLAC tour last month. Although she is a Bay Area native, she was only vaguely aware of the science going on at SLAC and never knew any specifics before her visit. Cartelli and her children were most impressed by seeing the Linac and the Klystron Gallery.

"It made a huge visual impact," she said. "After viewing a klystron in comparison to a kitchen microwave unit, they seem awesome indeed."

To reach out to more young people, Kreitz will be visiting Bay Area schools to speak with science teachers about SLAC. She will encourage science classes to tour the lab, hoping to encourage more interest in physics and to "give students an opportunity to envision themselves as scientists."

Currently, tour routes vary but attendees generally get to see the Visitor's Center, the Klystron Gallery, and other sites depending on the group and site availability. Kreitz is working on ways visitors can tour the Main Control Center, perhaps learn more about what is going on at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology and catch a glimpse of the science going on at the Linac Coherent Light Source.

"We want to build a more robust tour route that shows off SLAC science better," Kreitz said. She is also ironing out a few kinks in the system, such as securing buses for visiting groups and eliminating some steps in the approval process for tours

óJulie Karceski
SLAC Today, May 13, 2010