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SSRL Looks to Future, Modifies Organizational Structure

On December 8, Stanford Synchrtoron Radiation Lightsource Director Chi-Chang Kao announced a slightly modified organizational structure for the SSRL Directorate at SLAC. The changes include removing the X-ray Research and Facilities Division and bringing the areas of research that were previously overseen by this division higher in the organization to become their own divisions. These new divisions are: the Materials Sciences, Chemistry and Catalysis, Structural Molecular Biology, Structural Genomics and Beam Line Systems divisions. The changes, Kao said, will increase the visibility of these research programs, bring up new leaders within the organization, and position SSRL to achieve the growth outlined in the SLAC agenda.

"SPEAR3 is truly a world-class machine. With continued improvements and upgrades, SPEAR3 will be very competitive in comparison with third generation storage rings worldwide in the coming decade," Kao said. "Over the last few years, SSRL has successfully upgraded the optics and instruments of existing beam lines and has begun to construct completely new undulator beam lines to fully capitalize on the SPEAR3 upgrade. Now it is time to focus our attention on developing scientific programs in targeted areas where we think we can make the greatest impact. The strategy is to build on the existing strength of SSRL in structural molecular biology, exploit the synergy with LCLS and the growth areas in Photon Sciences Directorate, and develop stronger ties with research and talent on Stanford campus."

The new organizational structure, Kao added, provides focus to targeted scientific opportunities and promotes cross-fertilization among research programs. In addition, the structure adds a significant number of leadership positions to allow an aggressive approach in the development of new scientific programs, and it offers new opportunities for scientific staff to grow within SSRL. In the new organizational structure, the Materials Sciences division is headed by Mike Toney and Donghui Lu; Chemistry and Catalysis, by Britt Hedman; Structural Molecular Biology, by Mike Soltis and Hirotsugu Tsuruta; Structural Genomics, by Ashley Deacon; and Beam Line Systems, by Tom Rabedeau.

Kao said he considers SSRL an incubator of new research programs. With SSRL staff members' expertise in broad areas of science and technology and an even larger and more diverse user community, if there's a new area of science to explore, SSRL can probably find someone with the needed knowledge and experience. "The change is not big. In fact, it's pretty subtle. But it gives us a new layer of people who can help develop new science programs and become future leaders in synchrotron research and for SLAC," he said.

In addition to the reorganized divisions, Piero Pianetta and Britt Hedman will shift their roles slightly as well, with Pianetta leading the operations side of SSRL, working closely with the rest of SLAC and, in particular, the Accelerator Directorate. He will also have the responsibility to build a stronger in-house R&D into new x-ray techniques, optics, and instrumentation. Hedman, with her extensive experience and success in managing the structural biology program at SSRL, will lead the development of the new chemistry and catalysis division, the evolution of the structural molecular biology program, and mentoring of other division heads in program development.

"Britt and Piero have been absolutely critical to the success of SSRL, and in these new roles they will be able to contribute even more to the future success of SSRL," Kao said. "I look forward to working closely with them and the whole new management team."

In the next five to ten years, Kao says he seeks to transform SSRL into a world leading photon science facility that provides forefront experimental capabilities, attracts the best scientists in the world, and produces major discoveries and research with significant societal impact.

óby Kelen Tuttle for SSRL Headline News
SLAC Today, January 3, 2011