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!”
Michele Manfredda is an Italian physicist working at FERMI, the Free Electron laser Radiation for Multidisciplinary Investigations, near Trieste in Italy. Michele words in the PADReS group, which stands for photon analysis delivery and reduction system. The group’s role is to make experiments possible for FERMI users and they look after the optics and diagnostics of the light. As Michele explains, the role involves working in different places and with different teams. His #LightSourceSelfie takes viewers on a fantastic tour of FERMI.
Michele explains that he was first attracted to this field of research by the fact that simple things are done in a very complicated way. When it comes to advice that Michele would give those starting out in their careers, he says, “The advice I would give to someone entering the world of large facilities is go for it. They are crazy environments and you will enjoy it, but remember large facilities can be very time-consuming. So always keep in mind what you can give to science and what science can give you back. Also, find the right people. People you can learn from and people you like to work with because remember, science facilities are wonderful creations but the most wonderful creation is your career, your life. So, as an optical physicist, I tell you don’t be focused on your sample only, be focused mostly on you.”
Dohyun Moon, Beamline Senior Scientist at Pohang Light Source II in Korea, and Michele Manfredda, Scientist in the Photon Transport Group at FERMI in Italy, talk about new technology that is delivering remote control, automation and robot systems. All of these advances reduce the need for humans to be on the beamlines round the clock.
As Michele says, “The best science that we can do at a light source is the one that we do when we sleep and the machines and computers work.”
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/
Dan Olds is an associate physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory where he works as a beamline scientist at NSLS-II. Dan’s research involves combining artificial intelligence and machine learning to perform real-time analysis on streaming data while beamline experiments are being performed. Often these new AI driven methods are critical to success during in situ studies of materials. These include next generational battery components, accident safe nuclear fuels, catalytic materials and other emerging technologies that will help us develop clean energy solutions to fight climate change.
Dan’s #LightSourceSelfie delves into what attracted him to this area of research, the inspiration he gets from helping users on the beamline and the addictive excitement that comes from doing science at 3am.
We know by now that coffee ranks highly on the list of things that help get light source users through their night shifts. This #LightSourceSelfie also include insights on positive thinking that can provide a much needed boost to get you through to the morning. These insights are brought to you from staff scientists at LCLS and NSLS-II in the USA and Diamond in the UK.
Nina Vyas (PDRA in correlative microscopy) and Nina Perry (Diamond Year in Industry student) filmed their #LightSourceSelfie on Diamond’s B24 beamline. B24 is a correlative cryo-imaging beamline offering 3D imaging with soft X-ray tomography (cryoSXT) complemented by super resolution fluorescence structured illumination microscopy (cryoSIM).
With only a few places in the world where researchers can access this type of equipment, working at B24 is exciting as the experiments being done are destined to have a positive impact on global health. In their #LightSourceSelfie, Nina and Nina recall their first day working on the beamline. They also describe the collaborative, supportive environment that exists, ensuring early career researchers are given the help they need to learn new skills.
Beyond B24, Diamond’s other beamlines are supporting science across a wide range of fields and, as Nina Perry says, “Some of the best things about working at light sources is the variety of science and experiments that are going on around you. We work in a biological lab but just next door there is chemistry and physics experiments, cultural heritage investigations and all sorts. The variety is endless.”
Learn more about Diamond’s B24 beamline here
Science is ever-evolving. This is particularly true in the world of light sources. As science, technology and computing advances are made, the machines that enable all the amazing scientific research advance too.
Kentaro Harada is an Associate Professor in the Beam dynamics and Magnets Group at KEK’s Photon Factory in Japan. As an accelerator scientist, his research is centred around magnets, power supplies, beam diagnostics and the operation of accelerators. The goals of Kentaro and his colleagues are to improve present accelerators and to design accelerators that will drive the science of the future. In his insightful #LightSourceSelfie, Kentaro says, “I think research and engineering are like the arts. The expression of uniqueness is first motivation. My goal is to do what only I can do.”
Experimental time at light sources is very precious. When a synchrotron or X-ray Free Electron Laser (XFEL) is in operating mode the goal is to allocate as many experimental shifts to external scientists and in-house research as possible. This includes night shifts! So, how do light source users survive the night shifts? #LightSourceSelfies brings you top tips from scientists based at, or using, 5 light sources in our collaboration – the ESRF, Advanced Light Source (ALS), ANSTO’s Australian Synchrotron, CHESS and the PAL XFEL.
Marta Krasowska (Associate Professor), Sarah Otto (PhD Student) and Stephanie MacWilliams (Early Career Researcher) are scientists based at the University of South Australia. They share a passion for soft matter research and conduct experiments at ANSTO’s Australian Synchrotron. Their research questions relate to structural ordering in soft matter and its relevance in applications such as food, personal care products, biomaterials and pharmaceuticals.
In their #LightSourceSelfie, Marta, Sarah and Stephanie discuss what attracted them to this area of research, how they felt the first time they conducted experiments at the Australian Synchrotron, the support they receive from the team based at the facility, their top tips for surviving night shifts and how their research will benefit from the new BioSAX beamline, which is part of the synchrotron’s major upgrade. When it came to single words to describe their research, they agreed on “Challenging, unpredictable and super rewarding!”
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/
Ana Joaquina Pérez-Berná is a beamline scientist at the ALBA synchrotron near Barcelona in Spain.
As a biologist working on the soft X-ray cryo tomography beamline (MISTRAL), her role involves supporting the users with their experiments and also doing her own research. The beamline’s capabilities enable scientists to study down at the cellular level and the research covers a wide variety of diseases such as malaria, zika virus and SARS-CoV-2, along with treatments such as antivirals and chemotherapy. When describing her work, Ana says, “You are the first person who can enter the cell and see how it is inside, discover how the virus builds its bio-factories inside the cells, or discover how therapies work. Crossing that border for understanding how life is assembled, that is a privilege!”
Razib Obaid is a project scientist at the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) at SLAC in California. LCLS is one of 7 free electron lasers in the Lightsources.org collaboration. The facility takes X-ray snapshots of atoms and molecules at work, providing atomic resolution detail on ultrafast timescales to reveal fundamental processes in materials, technology and living things. Its snapshots can be strung together into “molecular movies” that show chemical reactions as they happen.
In Razib’s #LightSourceSelfie, he takes you into the Near Experimental Hall and describes the stunning equipment that is used to undertake the experiments, the science it enables and the possibilities for new science with the upgrade to LCLSII. Razib says, “The best thing about working at a light source is the ability as a user to tap into the enormous scientific resources and experience that exists among the staff and scientists. Not to mention the state of the art instrumentation that you have access to, to realise your science. To my younger self, I would say, keep studying quantum mechanics, someday you will get to play with those electrons.”
To learn more about LCLS, visit https://lcls.slac.stanford.edu/
Our #LightSourceSelfies campaign features staff and users from 25 light sources across the world. We invited them all to answer a specific set of questions so we could share their insights and advice via this video campaign. Today’s montage features Marion Flatken from BESSY II, in Germany, and Luisa Napolitano from Elettra, in Italy. Both scientists offered the same advice to those starting out on their scientific journeys: “Be curious and stay curious”. Light source experiments can be very challenging and the tough days can lead to demotivation and self-doubts. In these times, it is good to seek out support from colleagues, all of whom will have experienced days like this. Even if you think you can’t succeed with your research goals, try because it is amazing what can be achieved through hard work, tenacity and collaboration.
Sirius is the only light source in Latin America and is located at the Brazilian Center for Research in Energy and Materials. Mayara Adorno is a civil engineer and her role has been to oversee the technology control of the structures that house the synchrotron machine.
In her #LightSource Selfie, Mayara explains how she was attracted by the opportunity to work on a large project, taking it from paper plans through to completion. As with all large scale science facility construction projects, there were daily challenges for Mayara and her engineering colleagues. She says, “I’ve learned a lot from the project and this was very important for my professional and personal growth. I would advise any young engineer not to give up on your dreams and, this way, become a person who always wants to be open to learn and teach.” “It makes me really proud to know that Sirius has turned into the great science infrastructure from the efforts and dedications of many professionals from different areas, including myself.”
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.”