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From the Director: One Lab

SLAC Director, Persis Drell
by Persis Drell
Pief Panofsky built a laboratory with a single purpose: to probe the fundamental structure of matter with the world’s largest electron accelerator. During his lifetime, the lab reinvented itself many times in order to stay on the frontiers of scientific discovery. Fields of science and the laboratory programs have advanced remarkably in 45 years, but the principles of outstanding science that Panofsky stood for have not changed.

We now have a laboratory with a broader scientific mission and we are developing an organization that needs to optimally support that broader mission. My goal as acting director is to optimally position the laboratory to help make a smooth transition to the future scientific programs under a new lab director who will be coming in the spring.

My motto for my time as acting director is: One Lab. What does one lab mean? On the science mission side, it means that as one lab we are developing and will articulate a long range vision for the lab of simultaneous excellence in a series of closely linked fields that attack the frontier questions of science. One Lab means that we all recognize the importance of articulating this coherent and integrated vision for the lab’s future scientific programs, and understand how the whole of our programs is much more than just the sum of its parts. This is what makes the lab truly great.

On the mission support side, one lab means that the improvement initiative for the laboratory will optimize systems that support the scientific mission across the whole lab. We may find areas where more centralization than we have now is appropriate because it will result in efficiencies or better accountability. But one size does not always fit all, and some aspects of services will always have to be locally managed and tailored for individual programs.

One lab means the same standards and expectations for safety performance in all areas of the lab. We have all signed up to Safety First. That means that when we go to do our work, we think of safety first: safety before budget, safety before schedule. We need to be implementing safety systems across the site in a consistent way.

One lab means we have a respectful workplace where every employee, no matter what unit they work in, is treated in the same respectful way. Everyone at this site is contributing to the mission of the lab in an important way and should be treated as such.

I have been asked, "Why not wait until the new director comes to start making changes?" Simply, Stanford President John Hennessy was very clear when he asked me to take on this job that his expectation of me is to move the lab forward at this time. As acting director, I cannot and will not make major changes in strategic direction at the lab, apart from those already underway, but in areas where we have changes that we know we have to make, I will move aggressively.

The future of SLAC and the future of our science are of critical importance to me. I am confident that working together we will be successful during these challenging and very exciting times.
Questions? Comments? You can contact the author at persis@slac.stanford.edu.