Dear Molecular Foundry Users,
Our community looks toward the year ahead, with so many opportunities to conduct impactful science together. It is an important time to reflect on the Molecular Foundry user program in 2023, to celebrate our accomplishments and commit to improvement where additional work is needed.
Thank you very much to all users who completed the Fiscal Year 2023 User Survey. Your feedback throughout the year is an essential source of insight, and your voices are important to us here at the Molecular Foundry and beyond at Berkeley Lab and the Department of Energy. We review your submissions quarterly and undertake a thorough analysis each October. Notably, the response rate for the user survey was up substantially this year, nearly doubling last year’s number of responses. Thank you! Hearing from our users is so important, and we hope that you can maintain this high level of engagement with our survey. This letter shares a summary of the survey results, and some of our progress toward your suggestions.
- This year, the Foundry again rated high on user marks for four operational and five culture questions.
- 95% were very satisfied or satisfied about the fraction of the year the Foundry operates
- 93% were very satisfied or satisfied about scheduling and instrument availability
- 93% were very satisfied or satisfied about the performance of equipment and facilities
- 97% were very satisfied or satisfied about user support provided by facility staff
Figure 1- User ratings on operational survey questions, 2023
- 95% strongly agree or agree that the culture at the Molecular Foundry is enriching and scientifically stimulating
- 90% strongly agree or agree that they feel safe to speak up, share ideas, and contribute to discussions
- 88% strongly agree or agree that they feel like they belong at the Molecular Foundry
- 95% strongly agree or agree that all users are made to feel welcome
- 94% strongly agree or agree that all users and staff are treated fairly and with respect
Figure 2- User ratings on culture questions, 2023
While these overall levels of satisfaction are very high and similar to satisfaction during the previous two years, the data show a shift in some categories of users from the most enthusiastic level (very satisfied/strongly agree) to the more moderate rating (satisfied/agree), with an average of 2.1% of responses across all nine categories falling from FY22 to FY23. This could be related to larger numbers of users overall, as we reached our all-time high number of users at 1090 in FY23, or a larger fraction of users completing the survey this year, or even fluctuation within the uncertainty of this survey instrument. We will keep monitoring user satisfaction in this way, because we strive for excellence, and want all our users to come away with a high level of satisfaction.
User responses to survey questions indicated a high degree of consistency in the quality of the user experience across our seven technical facilities. Furthermore, comments on what is working well at the Molecular Foundry emphasized the Foundry staff and the service they provide to users. These responses are reassuring that we are meeting our goals to provide users with access to scientific expertise and world-class capabilities, with a focus on excellent user service to bring science solutions to the world.
Users’ feedback for improvement is essential to keep us growing in our mission. Here are some of our responses to your suggestions:
New user onboarding and safety training: Some users requested a more streamlined process for beginning their user work, including onboarding communications and safety training before they can begin their project work. The Molecular Foundry is taking a close look at these processes in early 2024, with an eye toward opportunities for clearer communication, elimination in redundancy, continued commitment to safety, and strong support for users who are getting started. A cross-functional team will kick off in January to work on this effort.
Food and drink availability: Several users noted the impact of cafeteria construction on access to food and drink on site. There are some options for meeting these needs at or near the Foundry.
- A food truck has been providing regular service on weekdays since mid-2023, along Lawrence Road at the S parking lot.
- The Berkeley Lab Guest House in Building 23 has recently expanded concessions with a variety of food items for sale in the hotel lobby.
- You can access vending machines on the first floor of building 67 near the loading dock.
- Coming in early 2024 is a new snack station, NanoBites, on the third floor near the User Office, organized by volunteers through the User Executive Committee.
- Kitchenettes in buildings 67 and 72 each have a filtered water dispenser.
- Coffee and snacks are available most Tuesday afternoons, 2:00-2:30 pm, in rotating locations; please ask to join the Foundry onsite users mailing list to receive these details.
Shuttle service: Some users requested expanded shuttle service. During the past several months, Berkeley Lab has been able to increase service on the Rockridge, Blue, and Potter Street lines.
Increased staffing: While the quality of staff support overall rated very high this year, we did receive several comments indicating that some staff may be overextended or that more staff would be welcome. The Fiscal Year 2023 budget for the Molecular Foundry was our strongest in years, so we have been able to hire new staff in key areas. During FY23, we were pleased to welcome Soumi Mukherjee (Research Associate, Bio), Aeron Hammack (Staff Scientist, Nanofab), Meredith Goodreau (Research Associate, Imaging and Nanofab), Morgan Wall (Computer Systems Engineer, Data Infrastructure), and Rachel Alvelais (Scientific Engineering Associate, Inorganic). Furthermore, Bianca Garcia (Administrative Assistant III) joined us early in Fiscal Year 24. We have also been pleased to open two searches for Staff Scientists based in Imaging and NCEM, two Scientific Engineering Associates based in Imaging, and a Foundry Business Manager, and we hope to secure individuals for these roles during FY24.
Instrumentation: Users consistently provide suggestions about the best ways to invest Foundry funds on new equipment or upgrades to existing equipment. We appreciate this, as it supports Foundry staff efforts to prioritize these investments. Our strong budget in FY23 and funding through a Major Items of Equipment (MIE) project for the Nanoscale Science Research Centers (NSRC) provided an opportunity to introduce new equipment and capabilities to our Center. The Quantum Spin-Polarized Low Energy Electron Microscope (QSPLEEM) saw its first groups of users in FY23. A new High-Performance Large-Sample Atomic Form Microscope was installed. The Nanofabrication cluster tool featuring sputtering and reactive sputtering, characterization modules, and air-free sample transfer was installed. The Millikelvin Physical Property Measurement System (PPMS) was installed. The Metal-Organic Chemical Vapor Deposition (MOCVD) system received an upgrade. A Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) characterization tool was installed in the Bio facility. A Microarray Spotter System was installed in the Bio facility. A new Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization Time of Flight Mass Spectrometer (MALDI TOF/TOF MS) System was added to the Organic Facility. A Laser lab-streak camera was added to the Imaging Facility. Four new high-performance cluster nodes were added to the Theory Facility. In the early months of FY24 we also issued procurement for a bundle of three Scanning Electron Microscopes (SEMs) and two Focused Ion Beam microscopes (FIBs). Furthermore, we are anticipating installation in FY24 of new aberration-corrected Spectra Ultra Scanning Transmission Electron Microscope (STEM) in NCEM through the NSRC MIE project.
Thanks so much for all your feedback throughout the year. We know users are important partners in the work of nanoscale science research, and we value your ideas and suggestions as we go forward. Please feel free to reach out to your assigned scientist of the Foundry User Program Office (email@example.com) with any questions.
Our FY 2024 User Survey is live now, and you can complete this any time. We look forward to hearing from you.
Shannon Ciston, PhD
User Program Director