Thailand is home to the Synchrotron Light Research Institute (SLRI) and this week’s #LightSourceSelfie features three of their staff members – Dr Phakkhananan Pakawanit, Beamline Scientist, Dr Prapaiwan Sunwong, Accelerator Physicist, and Supawan Srichan, Engineer. During this enlightening video, they explain their roles, the challenges and what excites them about working at a light source. Dr Sunwong describes a big 7 year project to design and build a new 3.0 Gev synchrotron light source in the Eastern Economic Corridor of Innovation (EECi). In June 2022, SLRI will host the 13th International Particle Accelerator Conference (IPAC’22) in Bangkok. IPAC is the main international event for the worldwide accelerator community and industry. To find out more, visit www.ipac22.org
Academic and industrial researchers have access to world class experimental techniques at light sources around the world. Experimental time on the beamlines is extremely precious and in order to get the most out of this ‘beamtime’ scientists need expert advice and support. Today’s #LightSourceSelfie Monday Montage is a tribute to the brilliant scientists, engineers, computer scientists and other support staff who work at light sources and provide external researchers with the assistance they need to ensure their experiments are successful and they come away with useful data that will advance their scientific studies.
Forrest Hyler is a PhD student at the University of California Davis and regular user of the Stanford Synchrotron Lightsource (SSRL). Forrest’s research involves exploring the structural and electronic properties of materials that are used as catalysts for carbon dioxide reduction in the lab. In his #LightSourceSelfie, Forrest describes his work as all encompassing as it involves studying materials related to a broad range of applications such as batteries, catalysis and the storage of radioactive materials. Forrest’s journey has involved a large range of scientists and he says, “The greatest part about science is that it’s kind of that universal language. You get to interact with people around the globe working together for a common goal to push science beyond the boundaries that we’ve ever been at before.”
Silvia Forcat is a mechanical engineer working at MAX IV in Sweden. Her role as floor coordinator involves coordinating a wide range of projects for the beamlines. Silvia says, “What inspires me to do my job is to know that I’m contributing to this country’s research and in science in general. There are so many experiments happening in this type of facility and many of them turn into publications. Also my dream would be that one of these publications will get the Nobel Prize. You never know!”
Johanna Hakanpää is the beamline scientist for P11, one of the macromolecular crystallography beamlines at PETRAIII at DESY in Hamburg. Originally from Finland, she studied chemistry and then did her masters and PhD work in protein crystallography. Johanna was drawn to the field because she wanted to understand how life really works. Supporting health related research is important to her and Johanna is especially inspired by her son who is a patient of celiac disease. Together they hope that one day, with the help of science, he will be able to eat normally without having to think about what is contained in his food. Johanna started her light source journey as a user and was really impressed by the staff scientists who supported her during her experiments. This led her to apply for a beamline scientist position and she successfully made the transition, learning the technical aspects of the beamlines on the job.
In her #LightSourceSelfie, Johanna highlights the adaptability of light sources during the pandemic as a key strength. Being part of a team that was able to keep the lights on for users via remote experiments is a reflection of the commitment that Johanna and her colleagues have when it comes to facilitating science. Thousands of staff at light sources all around the world have shown the same commitment, ensuring scientific advances can continue. This is particularly true for vital research on the SARS-CoV-2 virus itself. Learn more about this research here: https://lightsources.org/lightsource-research-and-sars-cov-2/
Challenges are part of daily life at a synchrotron. In his #LightSourceSelfie, Tomasz talks about the importance of flexibility and how teams work together, adjusting to overcome challenges and get things done. When describing the synchrotron community, Tomasz says, “I think it is one of the most welcoming and friendly communities I have ever met.” Tomasz is driven by curiosity and the need to help others. He says, “Light sources are a nice combination of both because I can actually help people to solve their problems, their interesting scientific problems, and this gives me the everyday fulfilment.”
After over a decade working in infrared spectroscopy, Tomasz is excited that SOLARIS now has funding to construct an infrared beamline that will allow scientists to do cutting edge infrared imaging experiments of cells and tissues primarily for cancer diagnostics and understanding of biological systems.
To find out more about SOLARIS, visit https://lightsources.org/lightsources-of-the-world/europe/synchrotron-solaris/
Luisa Napolitano is a staff scientist working in the structural biology lab at the Elettra Sincrotrone in Trieste, Italy.
In her #LightSourceSelfie, Luisa talks about switching from cellular biology to structural biology and how proud moments come when you solve a structure that you have been working on for years.
Her fantastic lab tour explains how the equipment enables you to prepare proteins for a range of experimental techniques, including crystallography, electron microscopy, SAXS and NMR. Luisa also explains why it is so valuable to have a structural biology lab located at the synchrotron where beamline staff are on hand to give you advice about your research.
Finally Luisa touches on the way her work as a scientist is helping to inspire her 9 year old son. She offers this advice to younger peers, “Be curious and stay curious! Don’t be afraid and try, even if you think something is too much for you. Try it because you never know. It was like me when I started in structural biology at the beginning, I was scared but at the end of the story I like structural biology a lot, and I don’t think I will change my field of action anymore.”
Synchrotrons and free electron lasers (FELs) look stunning. The experimental equipment is state-of-the-art, which makes being a light source user both exhilarating and nerve racking. A key ingredient for success is excellent support from the beamline staff on the experimental station you are using. As Kuda Jakata, a postdoc who supports users at the ESRF in Grenoble, France, says in this #LightSourceSelfie, “The light sources community, they are very helpful people and they actually want to push boundaries and so they work hard and they do a lot of really interesting science.”
Aeriel Murphy-Leonard, Assistant Professor at The Ohio State University, was studying magnesium alloys in graduate school when she first heard about synchrotron sources. Aeriel’s first thought was that a synchrotron sounded like something out of a Marvel film!
In her brilliant #LightSourceSelfie, Aeriel describes how she was able to conduct her first experiment at CHESS, the synchrotron at Cornell University in New York. Having recovered from the initial alarm that the synchrotron is located under the university’s soccer fields, Aeriel had an amazing experience and describe the wonderful support she received, and expertise she gained, during this and subsequent user visits to CHESS. Aeriel says, “One thing I’ve learned that’s very valuable about CHESS, or just synchrotrons in general, is that you don’t have to be an expert. I think that’s the biggest takeaway I would like to give in this video is that you do not have to be an expert. I had no idea what it was, did not even understand, and I was able to learn from the beamline scientists and what I’ve always enjoyed about CHESS as a facility is that it’s very educational focused. You can come in not an expert and leave with a lot of expertise.”
Aeriel is passionate about supporting young professionals, particularly those from minority groups. She shares her experiences in her lifestyle blog (https://aerielviews.blog/), which is aimed at young professionals, particularly those that are in graduate school or professional school.
Scientists who use synchrotrons such as the Advanced Light Source in California and CHESS at Cornell University, along with staff scientists at Free Electron Lasers in South Korea (the PAL-XFEL) and California (LCLS at SLAC), reflect on how they felt the first time they used a light source facility to conduct research experiments. The expertise available from the staff scientists who work on the beamlines is also highlighted in this #LightSourceSelfie video.