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From the Director of SSRL: Looking to the Future

(Photo - Chi-Chang Kao)

We in the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource management were recently informed that the FY11 operating budget for SSRL would be better than the relatively grim scenario we had anticipated. We are grateful for the efforts made by everyone in the complex budget process. The new budget, although still very tight, will allow SSRL to complete the 2011 run as planned and to begin to invest in new capabilities, in particular new undulator beam lines to enable new science.

The experience of this year's budget process highlights the importance of the sustained effort made by the user community, through organizations such as the National User Facility Organization, NUFO, and the Synchrotron Neutron User Group, SNUG, in communicating the impact of science and technology on the nation's economy, and the essential role the Department of Energy Office of Science plays in supporting the nation's research infrastructure. With that in mind, I encourage you to participate in this year's NUFO annual meeting. The meeting, jointly hosted by SSRL and the Linac Coherent Light Source, will be held here at SLAC on June 27-29, 2011. The theme of this year's meeting is "NUFO Encourages Access & Awareness."

With knowledge of the 2011 budget in hand and as part of our ongoing effort to develop an updated strategic plan for SSRL, we recently held a retreat for SSRL scientific staff. Stepping away from our day-to-day duties, we explored new scientific opportunities, listened to the research of individual scientific staff members, heard about potential accelerator performance improvements, and discussed how to translate our ideas into specific beam lines and instruments. It was a very fruitful experience for everyone involved, allowing us to learn more about our colleagues' work and take time to think outside of the box.

In parallel, over the last few months the SPEAR3 Accelerator Physics Group, working with physicists from the Accelerator Directorate's Accelerator Research Division, have intensified their effort to increase the brightness of SPEAR3, which is critically important for most of the new scientific opportunities discussed at the retreat. Initial results from their studies are very encouraging, demonstrating an improvement of over 50 percent in brightness. Substantial additional effort is still necessary before such an upgrade can be implemented for normal storage ring operation, but the work is quite promising.

Last but not least, SSRL continues to produce exciting science in a wide range of areas. SSRL users and staff members have published work that bolsters our understanding of the innate immune system, will help us engineer proteins with new functions, and will increase the efficiency and performance of solar cells and fuel cells—to name only a few of the many papers published recently.

It's an exhilarating time at SSRL, and the future promises to be even more so.

—Chi-Chang Kao
SLAC Today, May 20, 2011