March 27, 2014
In this country, we seem to depend on acronyms and abbreviations. For example, at the top, I guess, is POTUS (President of the United States); I have been told that people working in or close to the White House, such as in the Office of Science and Technology Policy, actually use that term, although it is not so much in evidence in Newport News. On the other hand, SC2 (Office of Science Deputy, Pat Dehmer), and SC3 (Head of SC Operations, Joe McBrearty) are people that some of us at Jefferson Lab refer to by their acronyms and interact with on a regular basis. SC1, the Director of the Office of Science, is a political appointment, and we are waiting to see whether Marc Kastner, currently an MIT professor, will be confirmed by the Senate. But above all of the other Energy Department leaders with their acronyms is the Secretary of Energy, who is known as S1.
And S1 came to visit Jefferson Lab on January 31, 2014.
The President gave his state of the union address on Tuesday, January 28, and immediately the executive branch deployed its team to spread the message. On Wednesday afternoon, we started to hear about a possible visit; by that evening, we received proposals for an itinerary with the invitation to comment. The maximum duration was to be two hours. So we got to work.
The initial suggestion indicated a preference for a significant amount of time for briefing our senior staff, and not too much emphasis was placed on providing a tour. Now, Secretary Moniz had visited the lab at earlier times, but much had changed, and we wanted to show off the work we were doing on the infrastructure, the accelerator upgrade, the experimental halls, and, of course, the education program….
But there was no way we could fit that into two hours. In the end, we decided to show him the Technology and Engineering Development Facility and Hall D with the GlueX experiment. We would cover the exciting commissioning of the accelerator by inviting Arne Freyberger to the briefing. For education, we decided to line up three teachers and a student, and they would do a welcoming line as he walked through the atrium. The Secretary's staffers were clear that the Secretary wanted to give a speech to our staff in the auditorium, and on this, there was no discussion; we concurred.
While we planned the visit, the rumor was that the Secretary would also visit Hampton University. Then we heard that the Secretary had invited Congressman Scott to accompany him, which added an extra dimension to the story.
Friday morning turned out to be bright and crisp, and while snow lay on the ground, short walks required no over-coats. S1 arrived on time, and we played our ace as he walked in the front door. There was Dirk Walecka, who usually joins his theory colleagues on a Monday but came in on this Friday especially for this occasion. Dirk, our Jefferson Science Associates Emeritus Scientist, was the doctoral advisor of one Ernest Moniz 40 years ago. This raised the temperature of the welcomes from the Site Office and the Lab quite substantially.
The briefing went well. Since both the Secretary and Congressman Scott are familiar with what we do, we could move quickly through the briefing and get to the tour. It went off like clockwork, and the teachers and student with our education team got to speak with him.
The real mission of the visit was indeed to spread the word from the President’s address, and to give emphasis not only to energy but to a significant initiative in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education. In fact, following his visit with us, Secretary Moniz headed for Hampton University, where on behalf of President Obama, he invited the President of the University, Bill Harvey, who sits on the JSA Board of Directors, to be one of his “ambassadors for STEM”.
As he left, Moniz's team expressed their pleasure at how smoothly it had gone. They congratulated us on the organization and how it had come together so quickly. They should understand the power and the galvanizing effects of the words paired with that two-letter acronym:
“Visit from S1!”