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Dorfan Today: What a Week!

What a week we just completed! SLAC bustled with a stream of important and influential visitors, most of whom were seeing SLAC for the first time. This slew of visits came in the same week that the hungry "roadheader" began tunneling its way from behind the Collider Hall toward the LCLS Far Hall. (View the webcams here and here.) The President of Affholder, Inc., Bruce A. Frost, the contractor that is overseeing the tunneling, visited SLAC last Thursday to discuss construction safety with LCLS management, and to affirm his personal commitment to safe work on the LCLS site.

I really look forward to hosting colleagues from the Department of Energy (DOE), from our contracting partners and other worldwide institutions, knowing that these visits give our guests an opportunity to experience the laboratory first hand. They get a chance to "feel" the excitement of the lab and to encounter its wonderful staff and user community. Visits of this kind allow them to put faces with names and experience facilities and infrastructure that otherwise remain mere descriptions in formal documents. The visitors can experience for themselves the unique attributes that distinguish SLAC from our sister laboratories. Each of four visiting delegations toured the laboratory, greatly extending the depth of their experience. For those that administer us, these visits allow them to make better informed decisions on our behalf. For those coming from other scientific administrative bodies, foundations or research institutions, the visits strengthen and broaden existing collaborations or foster entirely new ones. They often are the beginning of personal relationships that prove to be highly beneficial in the world of science, a world that is increasingly competitive and at the same time, of necessity, more collaborative. My thanks go to these busy people for making a special effort to come to SLAC. I also extend my deep appreciation to the laboratory staff for making the visits so successful.

Stan Borgia, DOE head of counter intelligence, spent most of Tuesday at SLAC, accompanied by DOE's local intelligence operations specialist, Steve Minniear. After their tour, we had a very frank and important discussion on counter intelligence issues that could occur at SLAC. I was very impressed by Stan's understanding of the issues, in particular as they impinge on SLAC, and I believe he left SLAC with a similar appreciation of the depth of our understanding and a strong sense of the very high level of importance that we attach to the goal of protecting our national security.

David Hill, General Counsel for the DOE, was here on Thursday morning and he shared with members of the Directorate the challenges of the very important role that he plays at the DOE. The discussion also allowed us to engage in near-term SLAC issues, like the Lease extension, that will be passing through his office.

Jürgen Mlynek, President of the Helmholtz Association and Albrecht Wagner, Chairman of DESY's Board of Directors, spent Wednesday afternoon and all of Thursday at the lab. The Helmholtz Association is a community of 15 scientific-technical and biological-medical research centers in Germany, with annual budget of over $3 billion. The Association aims to contribute significantly to solving the grand challenges which face society in the fields of energy, earth and environment, health, key technologies, structure of matter, transport and space. DESY is one of the fifteen centers funded by the Association, and Dr. Mlynek was particularly interested in probing SLAC's integration within Stanford University and how this structure has contributed to the enormous scientific success that SLAC has enjoyed. By contrast, we were able to understand better some of the highly successful ventures that the Association has fostered. We focused quite a lot of attention on our collaborative work with DESY, seeking ways to make these even more effective. Albrecht is of course an old friend who spent a year at SLAC in the seventies, and who visits us often. I am grateful to him for taking the initiative to bring Dr. Mlynek to SLAC.

Finally on Friday afternoon there was a tremendous event when Gordon Moore, founder and retired CEO of Intel, and currently the head of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, joined the Presidents of Stanford and Caltech, John Hennessy and Jean-Lou Chameau, along with senior members of the Moore Foundation and Caltech to celebrate the dedication of Beamline 12 at SSRL. The beamline is the result of a highly visionary collaboration between Caltech and Stanford, catalyzed by a $12.5 million donation from the Moore Foundation. Please see today's leading article for more details. As part of the dedication event, Gordon Moore initiated a signal that produced the very first diffraction pattern of a protein structure using the new equipment. Referring to his foundation's donation Gordon Moore said, "Instrumentation seems to be the place where we can make the biggest impact, where new capabilities make possible great leaps forward. It enables scientists to do things otherwise unavailable to them." His sentiment reminded me of a similar comment by Stanford Provost John Etchemendy at the LCLS groundbreaking event last October, when he said, "Instruments have a life of their own. They do not merely follow theory; often they determine theory, because instruments determine what is possible, and what is possible determines to a large extent what can be thought." Thanks to the Moore family's generosity, SSRL now has a new world-class instrument and we all look forward to the great results that it will produce. Congratulations to the staff at SSRL that have done such an excellent job in building this exciting new beamline on-time and within budget.

—Jonathan Dorfan, March 26, 2007