Dear Foundry Community,
As we welcome the coming summer, a hint of optimism is in the air. Case rates are on the decline, vaccination rates are on the rise, and the Foundry remains both vigilant and flexible as we expand access to our laboratories for onsite work.
There have been many activities in the recent months focused on the future. In April, the Foundry began a comprehensive process to update our 5-year strategic plan with the aim to reflect on what we do well, and consider how the Foundry can best position itself to address opportunities and challenges in the coming years. We sought broad input in an effort to ensure it reflects the needs of the various scientific communities we serve; including members of our User Executive Committee (UEC), Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), Proposal Review Board (PRB), and other thought leaders at Berkeley Lab and beyond. Next, the Foundry sorted all of the community input, which led to the development of a reimagined set of research themes that will focus the scientific vision of the Foundry for the next several years. We will be sharing a draft of our updated plan for public comment later this summer.
Bringing our scientific goals to fruition will require a solid investment in our infrastructure. Two years ago in this newsletter, we mentioned that the five NSRCs have partnered on a large scale proposal to develop and acquire new instrumentation and capabilities to address some of the most important problems emerging at the frontiers of nanoscale science. I’m pleased to share that the project has crossed its next significant milestone, Critical Decision 1 or CD-1, as well as CD-3A, which authorizes some of the project’s first procurements. While the timeline is dependent on Congress appropriating funds, this puts the project on track to obtain much needed equipment for the Foundry community in the next few years.
Concurrently, we’ve been working to inform members of Congress of the significance of user facilities like the Molecular Foundry. Over the past few months and joined by Foundry users, I met with several Congressional staffers representing both chambers and parties where we emphasized the Foundry’s role supporting users across the broader scientific enterprise. I also had the opportunity to testify before the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology where I highlighted the importance of DOE’s investments in basic science, including their support of user facilities like the Foundry, in the nation’s innovation ecosystem.
The Foundry is an innovation multiplier and has a lot to offer the scientific community and society at large. Despite the limitations necessary for keeping people safe, the Foundry was able to host 407 unique users from 63 unique institutions onsite (not including fully remote users). This is an impressive number that is a testimony to the dedication of our talented staff, their flexibility, and their ability to invent new ways to assist our users. Many of their efforts have been highlighted in our Foundry from Home podcast. We look forward to ‘seeing’ all of our users at our upcoming virtual Annual User Meeting in August.
The global pandemic has forced us all to take a critical look at how we operate – both at home and at work. It is clear as we consider the ‘future of work’, that many of the changes enacted during the past year present opportunities; whether it be ways for us to interact, new efficiencies, or enabling remote access to some of our instruments. We have learned a lot that will make us stronger once the pandemic is behind us, and a key part of that will be a stronger emphasis on work-life balance. Yet we also have to remember that the pandemic has affected us all differently, and has been particularly challenging for our early career researchers, students and postdocs. At the Molecular Foundry, we have seen first-hand the advantage of working in-person, together across disciplines, and we have also experienced the great benefit of a culture that welcomes and encourages diversity of thought and that includes people from a multitude of backgrounds. We seek to foster innovative actions that create an inclusive work environment that values the contributions of all employees and users, and so these topics will be a part of many conversations as we move forward.
The past year hasn’t been easy, and although it appears that life in our communities is approaching something more familiar this summer as more people become vaccinated, we ask for your continued patience as Berkeley Lab revises its safety protocols in alignment with relevant guidance. You can find the most up to date information about the Lab’s status and operations on this website. There’s a light on the horizon and we’re going to get through this together.
View the Spring Newsletter