After 13 years in SLAC management at SSRL and LCLS, I have decided to step down from my role as Associate Lab Director and return full time to my passion - practicing science - starting May 1 of this year. I consider myself a fortunate man to have experienced the development of synchrotron radiation and X-ray free electron laser science. In the 1970s, I participated as a postdoc in the first synchrotron radiation experiments at SSRL and witnessed the birth of the scientific revolution of synchrotron radiation research. Over the last four years, as LCLS Director, I had the opportunity to play a role in yet another scientific revolution, the new era of science ushered in with X-ray free electron lasers. We have made LCLS the star user facility in the Department of Energy complex and a focal point for scientists from around the world. We have also developed a vision to keep LCLS at the international forefront with LCLS-II and LCLS-2025 and this vision is documented here. I would like to thank all who have accompanied me and helped me on this wonderful journey.
The excitement, opportunities and responsibilities associated with scientific leadership and management come at a price. Building the LCLS Directorate resembled managing a start-up company and it coincided with a period of great change at SLAC itself. My roles as LCLS ALD and member of the SLAC Executive Council required my full attention and that has meant other aspects of my life have sometimes taken a back seat. I believe the essence of management and leadership is a willingness to serve for a cause, and the challenges facing SLAC were good reasons for me. I am pleased with the outcome, a lab that has reinvented itself and the emergence of a new star, LCLS. Over the last year, I have done some soul searching, as often happens with people near the end of their careers. I came to the realization that I still have great passion for science and have decided to spend the autumn of my scientific career going back to my roots. During my years in management, I had to pursue my passion over weekends and on vacations (to the chagrin of my wife) and sneak in “science time” here and there. Interestingly, LCLS itself has fueled the scientific flame in me. The interaction of LCLS X-rays with matter is so novel that the old X-ray textbooks need to be rewritten and a new generation of students needs to be trained. As the invention of the laser fueled the development of the entire field of quantum optics, we are now reaching a point where it is no longer sufficient to describe X-ray processes as “one X-ray at a time” because a billion indistinguishable X-rays may be in the sample simultaneously. In reading books on quantum optics, I have come to realize that there is a language gap between the laser and the X-ray communities. I have set myself the goal to help bridge this gap and have started to write a book on X-ray interactions with matter that goes beyond the conventional concepts that have served us well for the first 100 years of X-ray science – that is, until the advent of X-ray lasers.
As for LCLS itself, I strongly believe that the LCLS and LCLS-II management teams are strong and have a good balance of experienced and young energetic people. We are in the fortunate situation where the operation of LCLS and the development of LCLS-II have the full support of the DOE, and I would like to thank Pat Dehmer for taking the risk with LCLS before it was a proven concept and Harriet Kung for her continued strong support. It is now in our hands to deliver breakthrough science with LCLS and make LCLS-II another winner. What better time to turn this task over to other motivated scientists who can define their careers with LCLS and LCLS-II.
Lastly, as for the lab as a whole, I know SLAC is in very capable hands with Chi-Chang at the helm. He shares my enthusiasm for x-ray science which has brought us both to SLAC. I have the utmost confidence in Chi-Chang’s ability to lead SLAC at this pivotal time, and know that he with the Associate Lab Directors will ensure the continued success of LCLS and the future success of LCLS-II and beyond.
Over the next three months my highest priority will be to prepare for the DOE review of LCLS in April which we want to pass with flying colors!
23 Janurary 2013