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From the Director of the Accelerator Directorate:
The Premier Electron Accelerator Laboratory

(Photo - Norbert Holtkamp)

"The premier electron accelerator laboratory." This title is not only part of the mission statement of SLAC, it is what I have so far observed every day at work. I enjoy the eight o'clock meetings in the Main Control Center when the accelerator people talk about the last 24 hours and the plans for the week. This is then followed by the Linac Coherent Light Source users presenting and explaining the data taken. After 15 minutes everybody who comes knows the important facts and right afterwards the people in the Accelerator Directorate, a well-functioning organization, make sure that the SLAC linac continues to deliver beam to this LCLS with operational flexibility that is unprecedented in the world.

Almost like using a menu, the different experimental user groups can order the type of photons they want. This photon energy, that pulse length, so many millijoules… and it will be served! It was one of my goals for my first 100 days at SLAC to visit and talk to the people who operate and maintain the LCLS and the SPEAR 3 storage ring, to see the people who are building FACET (the Facility for Advanced Accelerator Experimental Tests), who run the experimental programs at the Next Linear Collider Test Accelerator, who produce klystrons or manufacture and install vacuum components, as well as those who manage projects and start the new ones, like LCLS II. I want to understand the enormous capabilities and breadth of activities that are under the umbrella of the Accelerator Directorate and how they work. Not that I am finished, but with everybody welcoming me into their particular areas, I actually have seen a lot.

Pretty much 60 days into my new assignment as the associate laboratory director for the Accelerator Directorate, I pinned two things to my office wall: the mission statement listed in the title of this article and the organization chart of the Accelerator Directorate. Why? They belong together. In order to go beyond maintaining our position as the premier electron accelerator laboratory, the organization must do two things: provide excellence in operations and support new ideas, going quickly from concept to realization in order to improve for tomorrow what today is already done well. This has very practical consequences, namely that the organization must be more flat to run efficiently, with minimum cost, to free up resources for the accelerator science we want to do. The organization must be able to respond quickly to new challenges and opportunities and therefore use these remaining resources to support forefront R&D. Small and flexible project teams must be quickly formed, utilizing these resources inside and outside the Accelerator Directorate, to develop, plan, execute, and then to disappear again, making room for the next project.

In the next 60 days you will see elements of this strategy being implemented. In one area where the Accelerator Directorate has an enormous opportunity, this is already at work. I ask all of you to support Zhirong Huang and Jerry Hastings in making it happen. Jo Stöhr and I asked them to spearhead a task force to develop and implement an R&D program at LCLS that could redefine the ground rules on how LCLS, LCLS II and all other free-electron lasers in the future will be constructed and operated. Looking at what I have learned so far, there are many more possibilities like this for the Accelerator Directorate. We might not be able to use all of them, but we can do most of them. Please help me to identify them and let's get going!

So, do I like my new job? This is one of the standard questions over the first two months. Absolutely! Given the opportunities out there, how could I not?

—Norbert Holtkamp
SLAC Today, January 28, 2011