Katie Martin knows the value of a long-term investment. As a project controls manager for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, Martin’s job is to manage the cost and schedule for long-term construction projects, working with the scientists and engineers to keep things on time and within budget. Some of these projects can span years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and Martin keeps track of every day and every dime.
She’s also living proof that long-term investments pay off. Martin began working as an administrative assistant at Argonne in 2007, as part of a co-op program in high school. She stayed with the Laboratory and worked full time while attending DeVry University part time, and Argonne provided financial assistance for her college education.
“The Lab invested in me,” she said. “That is really comforting, and has kept me going. I was taking 20 credit hours a semester, juggling classes and full-time work. They saw something in me, and helped me to go to school so they could keep me on.”
For most of that time Martin has been working in the Project Management Office, which serves as a conduit between project teams and the DOE. As part of this team, Martin has worked on several construction projects at the Laboratory, including the Energy Sciences Building and the Advanced Protein Characterization Facility, helping the project teams deliver on timing and costs.
After working on smaller efforts at the Advanced Photon Source (APS), a DOE Office of Science user facility at Argonne, Martin now leads a team that manages the cost and schedule for the massive ongoing upgrade to the facility. The APS Upgrade will see the current particle accelerator at the heart of the facility replaced with a state-of-the-art model, one that will increase the brightness of the x-ray beams by up to 500 times. New research stations will be built and existing stations modified or enhanced to make use of the new high-brightness light source.
With a projected cost of $815 million and a year-long installation period required for the new accelerator (during which the x-ray beams will be shut down), the APS Upgrade has a lot of moving parts, and Martin’s job is to keep her eye on each one of them.
“We work with all of the technical teams, the scientists and engineers designing and building each component,” Martin said. “We ask them to explain components to us, so we can break it down into a manageable process ―where they order it from, the cost, when they get it―and we report monthly to the DOE, so they can see we’re performing to their standards.”
Those reports from Martin’s team are vital to maintaining close coordination with DOE’s Basic Energy Sciences Program, which funds the project. Her team also keeps the master schedule for the upgrade, tracking the timeliness of hundreds of vendors delivering important, complicated parts to order. Every change to the cost or schedule, no matter how small, has to be accounted for, with the proper forms filled out and regulations followed.
All of this careful management means that Martin was among the first to realize the impact the COVID-19 pandemic would have on the APS Upgrade Project. She tracked delays from the project’s vendors―20,000 different activities, she said, linked to other supply lines around the world―and used that information to build a case to the DOE for a change in the upgrade’s schedule.
In May of 2021, the APS Upgrade Project announced a new date for the start of the installation period: April 2023, a change of 10 months from the original schedule.
“People were expecting it and glad to have a final decision,” Martin said. “There were so many delays, this was our only choice. I’m relieved that the new schedule is better for the project as a whole.”
The APS Upgrade is the largest and most complicated project Martin has been a part of: “I have a lot of balls in the air at all times,” she says, and she is grateful for the mentors who invested in her, sharing their knowledge of the job.
“I could not have gotten this far without a lot of people teaching me a lot of things,” she said. “There’s a lot I am now able to pass on to my team.”
And she has nothing but positive words to say about working with the APS Upgrade team, and playing a part in a project that she knows will lead to positive changes in the world, from new energy storage devices to new treatments and vaccines for diseases.
“This has been one of the best projects I have worked on,” she said. “Everyone is so passionate about the work they’re doing. The APS Upgrade will directly impact the future of science in our country and around the world, and everyone realizes that. Getting to work with these scientists and engineers, some of the best in the world, is a privilege.” ― Andre Salles
The U. S. Department of Energy Office of Science’s Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne National Laboratory is one of the world’s most productive X-ray light source facilities. The APS provides high-brightness X-ray beams to a diverse community of researchers in materials science, chemistry, condensed matter physics, the life and environmental sciences, and applied research. These X-rays are ideally suited for explorations of materials and biological structures; elemental distribution; chemical, magnetic, electronic states; and a wide range of technologically important engineering systems from batteries to fuel injector sprays, all of which are the foundations of our nation’s economic, technological, and physical well-being. Each year, more than 5,000 researchers use the APS to produce over 2,000 publications detailing impactful discoveries, and solve more vital biological protein structures than users of any other X-ray light source research facility. APS scientists and engineers innovate technology that is at the heart of advancing accelerator and light-source operations. This includes the insertion devices that produce extreme-brightness X-rays prized by researchers, lenses that focus the X-rays down to a few nanometers, instrumentation that maximizes the way the X-rays interact with samples being studied, and software that gathers and manages the massive quantity of data resulting from discovery research at the APS.
Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science.