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John Galayda: From Turtles to Electrons

(Photo - John Galayda)

John Galayda knows long-term commitment. Just ask his pet turtle, Opie, who's 20. Fortunately, for the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) project at SLAC, Galayda also knows physics.

"I was a Sputnik kid," said Galayda, who became a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1996. "When I was growing up I never considered any other career besides science."

Galayda's abiding fascination with science at the dawn of the space age has led him to the forefront of 21st Century physics, as director of the LCLS project, now under construction at SLAC.

Galayda's qualifications as LCLS project director stem from an entire career building particle accelerators. While working as a physicist for Brookhaven National Laboratory's National Synchrotron Light Source, Galayda had a hand in all aspects of accelerator construction, from magnet and RF cavity design to electron beam control systems. In 1989, Galayda and his team received an R&D100 award for their innovative system for stabilizing the electron beam within Brookhaven's storage ring.

After 13 years at Brookhaven, Galayda moved to the Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne National Laboratory, where he directed the construction, commissioning and operation of the APS accelerators. In 1996, his organization transformed the APS injector into Argonne's free electron laser, which operated in visible to ultraviolet wavelengths.

Now, Galayda brings the lessons learned at Brookhaven and Argonne to the LCLS project. LCLS will be an even more powerful free electron laser, using the final 1/3 of SLAC's existing linear accelerator to produce ultra-fast pulses of X-rays a billion times brighter than any other source on earth.

As a man who claims to have "found out the hard way" that turtles are not allowed aboard airplanes, Galayda understands creative problem solving. This, in fact, is what he rates as his favorite aspect of managing physics projects such as the LCLS.

"It's one thing to think about designing accelerators," said Galayda, "but it's a whole other thing to make one happen. I have to be aware of all the different ingredients—I'm never bored. It's a fascinating challenge."

The LCLS project, scheduled for completion in 2009, is a collaboration among Department of Energy laboratories including SLAC, Argonne, Brookhaven, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the University of California-Los Angeles.

—Brad Plummer
   SLAC Today, October 11, 2006

Image: John Galayda and his 1987 Pontiac Fiero (Click on image for larger version).