Jefferson Lab Staff Count Down to Open House

  • Brad Sawatzky teaching the public about the experimental halls at the 2018 Open House.
  • Mike Spata engaging with visitors at the 2018 Open House.
  • David Lawrence discussing science at the 2001 Open House.
  • Lisa Surles-Law talking to students at the 2018 Open House.

Jefferson Lab photo

Employees reminisce about past science celebrations and begin preparing for the highly anticipated June 8 event

NEWPORT NEWS, VA Staff at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility have been counting the days until the next open house. This year’s highly anticipated event – which is Saturday, June 8, and the first since 2018 – also celebrates the lab’s 40th anniversary.


As the big day approaches, members of the Jefferson Lab community who have participated in past celebrations reflect on their experiences and look forward to what 2024’s event will bring.

Lisa Surles-Law, science education manager, has been involved in every single Jefferson Lab Open House – 15 in all.


“It gives me a sense of pride and joy to invite guests to see what is ‘happening beyond the trees,’” she says.


“Beyond the trees” or “behind the fence” are phrases lab staff often use to describe the area on-site where experiments take place.


“Since we are hosting in June, I’m excited to see our largest cohort of high school students and undergraduates join in on the fun,” Surles-Law adds. “The student experience is very precious to me.”


Joanna Griffin, multimedia creative specialist, also has enjoyed many open house events since joining the lab in 2005. As lead graphic designer, she plays an impactful role in producing many of the visual materials for the day-long science showcase, alongside the other talented creators on her team.


“It’s inspiring to see our colleagues share their passion for the excellent science they produce and then see the visitors reciprocate that enthusiasm,” she says. “There's something really magical about seeing our local community so thrilled about where we get to work every day.”


Griffin is most excited for the unveiling of the LOVEwork that is being crafted as a STEM education and outreach activity by lab scientists, engineers, welders and technicians. This eco-friendly installation is a science-themed version of a classic Virginia icon that uses repurposed materials from accelerator parts. It stands as a powerful symbol of the lab's dedication to sustainable practices, educational initiatives, and active engagement with the local community.


On the scientific side of “the fence” is Mike Spata, deputy associate director of accelerator operations. Spata attended his first open house in 1992, when he worked in the Test Lab on early cryomodule production. He is looking forward to sharing this experience with many of the new staff volunteering for the first time.


“From 1993 to 2008, I was typically a guide in the accelerator tunnel,” he says, “but these past years I’ve enjoyed wandering the site, witnessing the excitement and answering questions.”


Brad Sawatzky, nuclear physics computing lead, joined the lab in 2009 and has participated often. At past events, he focused on teaching the public about the experimental halls, but this year he’s excited to work on the cryogenic shows for the first time.


“I’m really looking forward to working with a large audience and demonstrating all sorts of cool physics,” he says with a chuckle.


David Lawrence, lead scientific software scientist and another longtime lab member, first became involved with open house in 2001. He loves the opportunity to lead many of the demonstrations and activities, owing to his passion for answering curious questions and sharing science with the local community.


“There is nothing more gratifying than seeing young people’s eyes light up about science,” he says. “It makes it so much more real than seeing it on a screen, and I’m hoping the open house can be a catalyst to inspire some to pursue science one day.”


Want more? These are just a few of the friendly faces you will see at the 2024 Jefferson Lab Open House. With only two weeks away, the anticipation is mounting. We can’t wait to welcome the public to Jefferson Lab.


For the latest on the Jefferson Lab’s 2024 Open House, visit the event website or the Facebook event page.

View photos from the previous open house at


To be added to our event information distribution list for information updates and event reminders, email


By Lauren Weber 


Jefferson Science Associates, LLC, manages and operates the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, or Jefferson Lab, for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. JSA is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Southeastern Universities Research Association, Inc. (SURA).

DOE’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