The Advanced Photon Source
a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science User Facility

From California dreams to the APS beamlines, Grace Avellar supports the APS Upgrade

Photo of Grace Avellar

Mechanical engineering specialist Grace Avellar oversees the successful installation and tracking of components for beamlines as part of the APS Upgrade.

The allure of one day working at a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratory was deeply rooted in Grace Avellar’s childhood. Having grown up in Northern California, Avellar was familiar with DOE’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which sparked early conversations with her father about the excitement of working at a national laboratory like it in the future.

Avellar made that a reality when she joined the Advanced Photon Source (APS), a DOE Office of Science user facility at DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory, as a mechanical engineering specialist. She joined after completing her bachelor’s degree in engineering physics from the University of Illinois in May 2020. Her college roommate’s father, Mark Erdmann, is the one who made Avellar aware of the APS Upgrade, a comprehensive project to replace the original storage ring with new, state-of-the-art magnet systems, which will increase the brightness of the facility’s X-ray beams by 500 times. Erdmann serves as the storage ring removal and installation coordinator for the APS Upgrade project.

First as a technician and then as an engineer, Avellar worked on components of the new storage ring. She managed the vendor contract for one of those components, the insertion device vacuum chambers. She implemented changes to their design and coordinated and oversaw preinstallation work in the APS. These vacuum chambers are located inside insertion devices, which are magnets that make high energy X-rays from the electron beam and then send them to the experiment floor.

Knowing what we are doing is going to lead to discoveries that will greatly impact humanity is incredible. It is just an amazing thought, and it drives my day-to-day work.” — Grace Avellar, mechanical engineering specialist APS procurement manager

After spending some time on insertion devices and vacuum chambers, Avellar now focuses on the beamlines, the technical equipment that ensures quality X-rays are delivered from the storage ring to the experimental stations. ​“Jumping between focus areas gave me the opportunity to interact with numerous people and positions around the APS,” said Avellar. ​“It turned out to be truly beneficial as I began my career.”

The opportunities available to her are Avellar’s favorite part about working at Argonne and the APS. Valuing her representation as a woman in engineering, she actively participates in initiatives such as the Photon Sciences diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) council. She also participates in the Argonne mentorship program.

In her current role on the beamline team, she manages the component database and E-travelers, which are centralized locations to track data and work that can be referenced in the future. Her work involves collaborating with technicians, engineers and management to create efficient and effective processes. Avellar is excited that the processes she is currently developing will be used in the future by legions of APS scientists.

Additionally, she oversees the successful installation and tracking of components for beamlines as part of the APS Upgrade.

Avellar is also proud of the fact that the insertion device vacuum chambers installed in the storage ring of the APS will be there for the next 25 or more years and are essential to producing the X-ray beams.

“Knowing what we are doing is going to lead to discoveries that will greatly impact humanity is incredible,” said Avellar. ​“It is just an amazing thought, and it drives my day-to-day work.”

About the Advanced Photon Source

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.

This research used resources of the Advanced Photon Source, a U.S. DOE Office of Science User Facility operated for the DOE Office of Science by Argonne National Laboratory under Contract No. DE-AC02-06CH11357.

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://​ener​gy​.gov/​s​c​ience.

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