Great expectations at last Users’ Meeting before start of operation
Researchers from around the world prepare for proposals and experiments
European XFEL held its annual Users’ Meeting (in conjunction with the DESY Photon Science Users’ Meeting) on 25–27 January, but this was hardly a usual meeting: In less than a year, the about 1100 scientists who were in attendance will—provided they successfully applied for beamtime—be able to do experiments at the new X-ray laser facility. As such, presentations focused on the important progress made in the past year, as well as on the final push toward user operation.
The presentations were held at the DESY Auditorium in Bahrenfeld and kicked off with an opening address of European XFEL Council Chairman Martin Meedom Nielsen and a general overview of the status of commissioning and construction by European XFEL Managing Director Robert Feidenhans’l. Feidenhans’l expressed his excitement about bringing the facility into its operation phase in the second half of the year.
“This is an exciting and challenging year”, Feidenhans’l said. “There are still a number of important milestones ahead of us. But our team here and our colleagues at DESY are all working very hard to meet the deadlines and lay the groundwork for the first experiments in autumn. We will all do our very best to provide users with the best possibilities for science we can.”
The other talks presented the latest updates on the European XFEL accelerator, detectors, and optical laser systems, with a focus on capabilities during the early user programme.
The groups responsible for building the first two scientific instruments to be available for users, FXE and SPB/SFX, informed on the status of assembly of their instruments. Earlier this week, European XFEL announced the first call for proposals at European XFEL, offering “beamtime” at these two instruments.
In the afternoon, during the science session, leading researchers presented highlights of recent hard X-ray experiments in form of plenary lectures.
The users themselves, many of whom have followed the construction progress of the facility over the past few years, got to see the facility on Wednesday, on a series of special tours through the bio-laboratories and experiment hall on the Schenefeld research campus.
“I think it’s impressive, and I’m waiting to see what comes out of the first commissioning experiments”, said Roseanne Sension, professor of chemistry at the University of Michigan in the US who is interested in doing experiments at the FXE instrument. “I’m eager to see what we can do here differently from the other X-ray facilities.”
“It’s interesting to hear about something that could have a special application in my field”, said Dávid Forgács, who works for Saule Technologies, a company based in Wrocław, Poland, that makes flexible solar cells. “I would want to study the fundamental physics of charge transfer using one of the soft X-ray instruments here.”
“It all looks promising, especially since the first call for proposals came out”, said Robin Schubert, a scientist at the University of Hamburg who is looking to do experiments at the SPB/SFX instrument. “It was nice to get a tour—it gave some impression of what to expect with the instruments. I’m excited to write my proposal.”
Also, two satellite workshops on the European XFEL’s HED instrument and the two soft X-ray instruments SQS and SCS, organized in Schenefeld and Bahrenfeld respectively, informed users about research possibilities. An introductory workshop on Karabo, the control and analysis framework that was developed at European XFEL, showed researchers how they will operate and monitor their experiments as well as collect their data.
The Users’ Meeting also included plenary talks on soft X-ray experiments and a poster session, which featured over 300 posters—both events jointly organized between European XFEL and DESY Photon Science division. Among the approximately 1100 participants were 26 students and young scientists who attended the Users’ Meeting on bursaries dispensed by European XFEL. Several came from Slovakia, Russia, and the United Kingdom, and 10 from other countries.
“It was extremely important to us to show not just pictures of what we’ve built, but to demonstrate the facility live in Schenefeld”, said European XFEL Scientific Director Serguei Molodtsov. “We’re thankful to the users for their feedback and suggestions—they help and motivate us for our future work in providing them the best facility that we can.”