iCFN: Message from CFN Director Emilio Mendez

Emilio Mendez

Emilio Mendez

I want to first congratulate the entire CFN community on an exceptionally productive summer and fall. There is quite a bit to celebrate here as our facility climbs toward optimum operating levels.

As many of you know, CFN underwent a thorough Triennial Review by an external, DOE-appointed committee in September. The Review included evaluation of everything from our proposal system to the top-flight research conducted by scientific staff and users. In my opinion, the Review went very well, and informal comments we heard then suggest a very positive outcome. We are eagerly waiting for the official DOE report, which is expected early next year. 

I am grateful to all of you for your participation in the review. I want to draw attention to the contributions of the user community. Users created 26 of the 51 research posters showcased during the review sessions—this is emblematic of the increasingly active role you all play in CFN operations. Five users made oral presentations to the review committee, summarizing their recent work at the CFN and highlighting its research capabilities and the singular talent of its staff. In fact, those presentations highlighted the value of the DOE nanocenters in general to the wider scientific community, including small laboratories, large institutions, and industrial partners. On that note, I want to mention that we almost doubled our industrial users this year. 

The CFN is only as strong as its science. Our sustained excellence hinges upon attracting the best scientists from all over the world, and we want to continue improving. To that end, I am happy to report on an enormous increase in feedback participation. We depend on our users to gauge what works well and to tell us what might be improved.

At the end of each fiscal year, the DOE asks for a report on satisfaction surveys completed by users—this is valuable to CFN administration, staff scientists, and DOE leadership. In our first years, less than 10 percent of our user community participated. In FY 2012, that rose to 18 percent, and this year we leapt to 27 percent. This is a significant improvement, certainly, but we want to drive that number even higher.

We received 118 completed surveys this year, and a full 99 percent of respondents were either “satisfied” or “very satisfied”—in fact, 91 percent of users fell into the latter category. This is a testament to the CFN’s service culture, and I consider it to be a strong signal that we’re moving in the right directions. The pressure is on, then, to maintain that level of excellence.

The more we hear from users, the better we can steer the ship. As we prepare the equipment budget for next year, we are looking at the feedback from the User Executive Committee about the needs for new or upgraded facilities. 

Finally, I want to thank the CFN community for your understanding and patience as we dealt with the government shutdown and the uncertain climate in our nation’s capital. We will always do our best to keep you as informed as possible on ongoing developments.

Please take a moment to explore this issue of iCFN to find out about upcoming events, opportunities to get involved, research highlights, and the work of staff scientist Kevin Yager. CFN also recently launched its own Twitter account (@FunctionalNano) and LinkedIn group, and I encourage everyone to take their conversations online and strengthen the networks established here at Brookhaven Lab.

— Emilio Mendez
Director, Center for Functional Nanomaterials

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