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People: Kristina Turner's Post-graduate Education—Courtesy of SLAC

Kristina Turner shows a project schedule with a lot of crossed-off milestones.
(Photo by Lori Ann White.)

Kristina Turner learns quickly. That's a good thing, because after coming to SLAC following her graduation from Harvey Mudd with a degree in Systems Engineering she's been thrust into one new situation after another. Turner, currently a project manager in the Accelerator Engineering Controls Department, has always been able to draw on past experiences to succeed in her next assignment.

This week marks the completion of a complex project Turner has been overseeing to upgrade the linac's Personnel Protection System. The PPS is the primary safeguard for SLACers working with the linac, but the initial upgrade focused on Sectors 21–30, the portion used by the Linac Coherent Light Source. Now, following the final inspection this week, the entire linac will safely service both the LCLS and the experimental accelerator FACET.

Managing the upgrade is a far cry from what Turner did when she started at SLAC more than ten years ago as an operator for the PEP-II storage rings. She worked her way up to Engineering Operator in Charge, a position she considered fun, but "it required a little bit of an adjustment," she said. "I couldn't do as much anymore. I had to watch it all happen." The group's philosophy was a good match though. "Accelerator Operations has an incredible teamwork attitude," she said. "People are not afraid to ask questions and figure things out together. I thought that was exceptional."

Despite her respect for the principles of her group, when an opportunity to do more came, Turner took it. She moved from Accelerator Operations to Controls to work extensively with Joel Fitch, a 40-year SLAC veteran who was set to retire.

"They wanted to bring somebody in to work with [Fitch] and just pick his brain," Turner said. For almost a year, "Whatever Joel did, I did. Everything I did was new." This included working on the PPS. Turner smiled. "Joel was so much fun to work with. It was a great, great job." Turner found she was able to draw on her experience as an operator and an Engineering Operator in Charge to speed the learning process.

"As an EOIC you're supposed to appropriately supervise the people who use the safety systems," she explained, "so I already had a high-level, black box understanding of exactly what it does." Fitch filled in the details. "I started to appreciate what the system's really doing. Once you started looking at it, it was structured pretty nicely—actually a little bit better than some of the newer systems." In addition to an extensive grounding in the PPS system, Turner added field hardware troubleshooting, computer-aided design and drafting to her repertoire.

Then a year ago, Turner said, Safety Systems manager Enzo Carrone told her, "You're now going to be a project manager."

"This is a pretty big jump from what I was doing just two years ago," Turner said. "I liked that I was getting to try something new, yet again. It makes the job interesting."

She and her group have had help, as well. They've been collaborating closely with SLAC's sister lab, Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Laboratory, where staff already had experience with the type of PPS upgrade Turner is overseeing. She is also establishing "broader communications with the safety systems community in general," she said—for example, by inviting representatives from Brookhaven, Argonne and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories to design reviews, which gives the SLAC safety systems group a chance to share ideas with their brethren.

On a personal level, "Enzo is mentoring me on project management issues and [Jefferson Lab safety systems group leader] Kelly Mahoney is mentoring me on safety systems designs for the modern tools, so I've had a lot of good guidance," Turner said. "It's helpful not to be alone."

Turner is not quite sure what her next project will be, but she knows she wants to put her SLAC lessons to work.

"I want to take everything I've learned, like the helpfulness and teamwork effort of the Operations group, and I want to make it fun," she said.

—Lori Ann White
SLAC Today, May 11, 2011