A Message from Chuck Black

insights from the CFN Director

Chuck Black enlarge

Chuck Black

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the qualities that define the CFN staff. What is our essence? In what ways are CFN staff different from other scientists and from people who support other science organizations? What makes us who we are?

The CFN mission is to deliver forefront, essential nanoscience capabilities to the worldwide research community and conduct world-leading research in strategic areas of nanoscience that advance the DOE basic science mission. We carry out our mission by working safely and managing our resources for the most efficient operations. We do these things well, but they are not the qualities I have been thinking about, as they do not tell who we are. Outside of all of the excellent laboratories and state-of-the-art equipment that CFN staff members oversee and support, there are more personal elements that make the CFN truly unique—and empower us to fulfill our mission.

Here is the list I have come up with so far:

  1. Cooperation. We believe in cooperation and collaboration. The CFN foundation is built upon the tenet that we can do more by working together than by working separately. This idea is not only true for our science and the science of our users but also applies to our everyday life. We help each other—whether by pitching in to sustain our weekly departmental coffee break (Wednesdays at 3 pm in the CFN lobby. All are welcome!), coming together to volunteer at CFN Summer Sunday, or hosting a yearly potluck holiday dinner, we work together as a group.
  2. Expertise. The skill and expertise of the CFN staff bring value to our users. The CFN is more than a collection of state-of-the-art nanoscience equipment. Otherwise, our users could find a similar experience at many other places. The true value of the CFN is found in our staff, who impart their expertise and guidance to users for the benefit of user science. The commitment to our users is providing expert training on the equipment they need for their work and providing ongoing guidance to them in support of their research goals.
  3. Balance. CFN staff members find their balance between supporting user science and achieving their personal research goals. CFN staff scientists spend at least half of their time supporting user science, with the remaining time devoted to the CFN program of internal research. This duality is embedded in the CFN culture, and each component is an essential element of our mission. We take this commitment seriously—no CFN scientist can succeed without appropriate attention to both parts of the mission. However, rather than being a burden, this dual role provides CFN staff with a fulfilling career that balances service to others and work toward achieving personal ambitions.
  4. Confidence. It may not be surprising to know that the CFN staff are supremely confident in their abilities. Believing we are the best at what we do is important in attracting users to our facility and providing them with a valuable experience. And yet, equally important is that the CFN staff are self-effacing. Although we have egos that come along with talented people, we willingly put them away when working with users in order to place the users' needs ahead of our own.  Above all else, this quality in our staff—rare among scientists, and even among people in general—is essential to the CFN's success.
  5. Excellence. The CFN strives for excellence. Our goal is surpassing expectations—in our research, in our support of the user experience, and in our facility operations. While trying to achieve this goal means that we all work hard, taking pride and satisfaction in our efforts, it also means that we frequently fail to meet our own high standards. And so, we are resilient in everything we do. We use setbacks as opportunities to improve, never as reasons to quit.
  6. Purpose. One of the distinctions of working within the system of DOE national labs is that we are part of a team that Energy Secretary Perry recently called "the greatest science enterprise the world has ever known." It is deeply fulfilling for our staff to work as part of something larger than ourselves, knowing that by accomplishing our mission, we serve the nation and the world.

Teamwork and cooperation among talented staff and users are the reasons the CFN succeeds. We understand that each of us has an important role to play in advancing nanoscience to improve society. I see this understanding every day around the CFN, and especially at our big events, such as this past spring's NSLS-II & CFN Joint Users' Meeting, this June's meeting of the CFN Science Advisory Committee, and our just-finished CFN Summer Sunday. We have great ideas for the future. Our clear sense of who we are and the qualities that make the CFN a special place for nanoscience will carry us forward.

—Chuck Black
CFN Director

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