In the fall of 2022, during the annual SSRL / LCLS Users' Meeting, Silke Nelson was named the first recipient of the LCLS Users’ Recognition Award. This newly created award recognizes LCLS facility staff who have made significant contributions to the user community by supporting experiments or advancing the facility through their scientific area of research, instrumentation or capability development.
Silke, who started at SLAC in 2006 working on the BaBar experiment, has been an engineering physicist in LCLS since 2011. For the last three years, she’s also been serving as the department head of LCLS's Experimental Controls Systems Delivery Group. Their job is to adapt the architecture and tools developed in the control and data systems platform groups for upcoming experiments and to build coherent interfaces that allow users to make faster decisions on how to proceed with their experiments.
It was her work developing a framework to translate and reduce the raw data from experiments into small Hierarchical Data Format version 5 (HDF5) files that users can analyze using their preferred tools, such as Python or MATLAB, that garnered her the award. "These files are accessible shortly after the data has been taken, allowing the scientists to decide quickly if more data in a given set of conditions is needed or if they can move ahead in their experimental plan,” she explains.
The most challenging aspect, she says, was to write code that was both easy to understand and modifiable by less experienced users and able to fulfill the needs of more complex experiments, all while efficiently using our computing systems. “This requires close collaboration with the scientific staff and users, which is very gratifying,” she adds.
She’s excited that this award has been created to give visibility to staff who may work only behind the scenes of the user experiments. “Receiving this award shows the importance of not only having great tools in place, but also making sure that users know how to take advantage of these tools to carry out the cutting-edge research at LCLS.”
LCLS facility staff at any level are eligible to be nominated for the award, including instrument, laser, data, detector, sample environment, controls, technical support, and accelerator/FEL staff, as well as members of the User Office. Nominations can be submitted each year via the Users' Meeting website, or by contacting the LCLS Users' Executive Committee. Nominations can be made by any member of the LCLS user community or SLAC staff, and should include the candidate's name and why they should be recognized through this award. The winner will be selected by the LCLS User Executive Committee and recognized during the annual Users Meeting. The award consists of a $1,000 prize and an award plaque.