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From the Director: The Visit of the Scientific Policy Committee

(Photo - Persis Drell)
(Photo by Harvey Lynch.)

It is early May. Roses are blooming and the Scientific Policy Committee has just made its semi-annual visit. Their external look at our science is incredibly valuable. These meetings have greatly helped us shape and evolve our scientific programs.

This SPC meeting was perhaps a bit low key compared to some recent ones. We didn't have Fermi Telescope launch or Linac Coherent Light Source first lasing to report. However there were in-depth discussions in areas of great strategic importance to the lab. I'll just mention a few.

We had a lot of focus on our accelerator research strategy with a pre-meeting the day before the SPC to ensure an in-depth examination of where we are going. The SPC members endorsed the strategy they heard, recognizing some of the challenges but also expressing a lot of enthusiasm about the opportunities, especially in free electron laser accelerator R&D.

We gave them an update on LCLS operations, LCLS science and progress with LCLS-II (which had just completed its CD-1 review with flying colors the week before). The SPC feels the science output from LCLS is robust and they like where we are going with LCLS-II.

They made helpful comments about how to refine and strengthen our energy strategy. They said they like the Particle Physics and Astrophysics Directorate emphasis on particle astrophysics and the Large Hadron Collider, and raised some good questions about some elements of the PPA strategy.

Finally, they said they greatly enjoyed three outstanding talks by several of our young stars at the lab. Sebatian Boutet gave a very impressive report on some new LCLS science. Stefan Funk talked about high-energy gamma-ray physics, including some recent Fermi Telescope results. And Yi Cui spoke about the Bay Area Photovoltaic Consortium, which SLAC is participating in and which links very strongly to parts of the lab's energy strategy.

Overall the meeting was excellent. I find the greatest value to me is that I have to stop and really think where we are going strategically, where are our vulnerabilities, and how can I ask them to help me. They always are eager to do so and we always appreciate their advice and wise counsel!

—Persis Drell
SLAC Today, May 13, 2011