BY MARGUERITE HUBER | JUNE 13, 2023
As floor coordinator, Wayman acts as a liaison between beamline staff and the rest of the Advanced Photon Source.
Hundreds of people work at the Advanced Photon Source (APS) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory. On top of that, more than 5,500 scientists run experiments in a typical year using the bright X-ray beams at the DOE Office of Science user facility, and those researchers will return again once the ongoing upgrade to the facility is complete.
To keep everyone connected, floor coordinators such as Ashley Wayman act as a liaison between the beamline crews and the rest of the staff at the APS. Wayman, who has a background in chemistry, joined the APS in 2019. She first started out in food science research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, followed by quality control and quality assurance for a food ingredient manufacturer. Eventually, Wayman realized she missed working in a research environment and applied for a job at the APS.
“I like being helpful. It is very satisfying to have a researcher come to you with a problem and be able to connect them to the right person so they can continue to focus on the science.” — Ashley Wayman, APS floor coordinator
But her first day on the job was not her first time at the user facility. When she was in high school, Wayman visited Argonne and the APS. She recalled flipping through the publication booklets on her tour and thinking, “Oh, that is so cool!”
Wayman is now one of eight floor coordinators who cover the 35 sectors around the experiment floor. She manages sectors 21, 22, 23 and 24. The floor coordinator manages numerous tasks, from providing final authorization on all experiments and making sure work is approved to solving any issues that arise.
“I like being helpful. It is very satisfying to have a researcher come to you with a problem and be able to connect them to the right person so they can continue to focus on the science,” said Wayman.
Not long after beginning her role, Wayman realized the impact of the research done at the APS. Just a few months after starting, the COVID-19 pandemic was declared. Before she could even grasp the importance of it, Wayman was serving as floor coordinator for the very first COVID-19 experiment done at the APS. Only afterwards was she able to look back and recognize the significance. “At the time, I remember just starting to hear about the virus in the news,” said Wayman. “We were in a maintenance period at the APS when we learned we had to prepare the beamline early so they could run a coronavirus experiment. That was the moment when I thought, this thing might be big.”
The APS is currently undergoing a comprehensive upgrade which will increase the brightness of the X-ray beams by up to 500 times. While the facility is being upgraded, experiments using X-ray beams have paused. With no X-ray experiments and a limited number of users on-site this year (some will still come to use machines that do not involve X-ray beams), the expertise of the APS floor coordinators is still in high demand. Wayman will be working with her beamlines as she normally does and assisting with the upgrade process.
“Like renovating a house, the upgrade project can be really disruptive to day-to-day operations. There are spaces that are under construction, more contractors on the floor than ever, and utility shutdowns that need to take place so the work can be done safely,” said Wayman. “As a floor coordinator, I act as a communication channel between the beamlines and the rest of the facility and APS-U to make sure everyone is on the same page and to relay any concerns that are brought up.”
Changes made at any beamline requires assistance in planning, coordination, approvals and permits. The floor coordinators are great resources to serve as a point of contact and help with all of this. A major focus for the floor coordinators is managing configuration control for the Radiation Safety Systems (RSS) components for the experiment floor and front-end systems of the beamlines.
“This upgrade is much different than when the facility was being first built,” explained Wayman. “Since we are reusing so much infrastructure and equipment, we want to make sure that the RSScomponents we are retaining remain under control so we are confident they will provide protection from radiation exposure after the upgrade.”
Any work on RSS components requires a special permit that details the scope of work, references approvals and indicates what the safe state needs to be in order for work to begin. So far, Wayman’s group has created and issued nearly 300 of these permits for work on the experiment floor and front-end systems.
Wayman misses having beamline users out on the experiment floor and she is looking forward to their return. “You can sense the excitement in the scientific community about what their research will soon be able to unlock,” she said.
Once the upgrade is complete, the floor coordinators will transition to helping with the beamline commissioning process to make sure the beamlines are safe and ready for researchers when they return. After that, they will return to normal operations and continue to help support the scientists who make meaningful discoveries.
“I’m excited to get to the other side of the upgrade and to continue to do my part to enable the incredible discoveries that will come out of the new APS,” said Wayman.
The U.S. Department of Energy's APS at Argonne National Laboratory is one of the world’s most productive x-ray light source facilities. Each year, the APS provides high-brightness x-ray beams to a diverse community of more than 5,000 researchers in materials science, chemistry, condensed matter physics, the life and environmental sciences, and applied research. Researchers using the APS produce over 2,000 publications each year detailing impactful discoveries, and solve more vital biological protein structures than users of any other x-ray light source research facility. APS 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.
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. DOE 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 the Office of Science website.