Director of Science for the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) BioXFEL Science and Technology Center
Light source science is entering an exciting phase with the development of X-ray free-electron laser (XFEL) facilities. These machines are the next generation tool for atomic and molecular exploration, complementary to existing synchrotrons. The super-brilliant, ultra-short flashes of X-ray light produced by an XFEL are used to piece together snapshots of atoms in motion, helping us to understand the processes taking place. They have the remarkable property that these femtosecond pulses are capable of outrunning radiation damage effects, allowing molecular motions to be imaged at room temperature, without damage, at atomic resolution.
The scientific reach of an XFEL facility is as vast as a synchrotron’s, helping to reveal new atomic details of viruses, proteins, new materials and everything in between. As XFEL science increases over the next decade we expect to see advances in structural dynamics and nanoscale imaging that will have an impact across the sciences. Diamond researchers, users and staff have already been fully involved in collaborations with our NSF BioXFEL consortium of US universities at the XFEL facility at SLAC near Stanford, and this 'BioXFEL' consortium has recently delivered our Lipid Cubic Phase 'toothpaste' sample-delivery injector for use at Diamond with membrane proteins. Diamond’s role in the structural biology facility at the European XFEL in Germany will soon see a further exciting development for protein crystallography with the introduction of a UK XFEL hub to provide support of sample preparation, data processing and training.
Science and collaboration go hand in hand and XFELs are no exception. It will be exciting to see these new large research facilities develop alongside our synchrotrons, and to see how many more questions we can answer with the brilliant light produced by these two complementary machines.
Chairman of the Board of Diamond
In 2014, Lord Alec Broers retired as Chairman after six years, where his exceptional support and contribution were critical to the success of Diamond. Since taking up the role in August 2014 I have already witnessed a period of rapid progress at the facility. The Phase III construction is well underway with 25 out of the planned 33 beamlines now operational, and with further complementary facilities on the horizon.
I am delighted to have this opportunity to contribute to the next phase of development of Diamond, maintaining and enhancing its position as a leading-edge scientific facility and ensuring that the knowledge generated at the synchrotron is widely disseminated in academia and industry, and fully exploited for the wider public good.
We want to attract the best science here and to reach out to those parts of the scientific community who might not know what they can achieve using Diamond. We want to equip the UK with the tools and expertise to do the best science possible in the 21st century. Current development of a 10 year vision and strategy for Diamond will help determine how best to strengthen the UK synchrotron’s position as a world leading facility for scientific research and, in doing so, help the country to meet a wide variety of scientific and societal challenges.
Diamond Light Source is the UK's national synchrotron science facility, located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire.
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