With summer around the corner, I would like to update you on several recent events and activities that impact the Molecular Foundry community over the past couple of months and mention a few exciting near-term opportunities for us.
On March 23, the current federal budget was passed, which included funding for the five nanoscale science research centers (NSRCs), including the Molecular Foundry. This year, the budget includes a $10 million funding opportunity for the NSRCs for research infrastructure supporting quantum information science (QIS). Along with other government agencies, DOE has made QIS a top priority and the NSRCs are ideally positioned to help in this effort, as emphasized by this statement by Secretary Rick Perry who visited the Foundry in March. Foundry staff are working hard to respond to this QIS call with several ideas that will take advantage of our unique expertise and attract new communities of users, and position the Foundry as an important resource for the nation’s QIS efforts.
Our spring proposal call closed on April 2, and I am pleased to report that we received 330 proposals from 28 different U.S. states and 16 countries. The Foundry’s broad geographic reach was enhanced by our newly created travel grant program that supports researchers from EPSCoR states. A third of the received proposals came from first-time applicants, and I am pleased we continue to add to our growing community of users. In an effort to improve the experience of first-time users, as well as our operations and hiring practices, we have partnered with an outside consultant, AcuityWorks, to identify the aspects of our organization most susceptible to implicit bias and study ways to minimize it. While their report and external study identified several strong suits of the Foundry’s culture and operations strategy, it also outlined several actionable opportunities for improvement. We look forward to working toward those improvements – which include making information and policies more transparent and consistent, and setting short- and long-term goals for us to work toward – and discussing those more with you in the future.
Finally, I want to highlight a recent addition to our staff. I am pleased to announce that Dr. Selven Virasawmy has recently joined the Nanofabrication Facility as a member of the technical staff. Our other searches are well underway, including the one for the new Foundry director, which is currently conducting onsite interviews of four finalists.
As you can see here, and from the science highlights featured in this newsletter, there are a lot of exciting things happening and I hope that each of you continue engage with us by sharing your unique perspectives and ideas. All staff and members of the User Executive Committee welcome your feedback at any time.
Have a terrific summer,
J. B. Neaton
Director, Molecular Foundry
Lawrence Berkeley National Lab