Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman Addresses SLAC
Secretary of Energy Bodman received an honorary Beam Tree from SLAC Director Jonathan
(Photos by Diana Rogers)
The U.S. Secretary of Energy, Samuel Bodman,
visited SLAC on Thursday, August 4. Bodman spoke to an audience of about
1,000 SLAC staff and visitors on the role of the Department of Energy as
the primary funder of research in the physical sciences in the Federal
Thank you, President Hennessy.
Iím privileged and a bit in awe at being here before
you. Iíve been on this job now about six months
which ó as my colleagues
have heard me say a few times as we visited other
laboratory facilities ó
itís beginning to be a little dangerous because Iím
starting to think that I know what I am doing.
But the one thing we have been
doing is working very hard with our friends in the
Congress to get an Energy bill passed and Iím happy
to report that I think America was the real winner
last Friday when we did in fact get an Energy bill
passed. The President will sign it next Monday
morning in Albuquerque out of deference to Chairman
Domenici who led the Congressional effort to get the
It is not a perfect bill. It is
frankly not the bill I would have written in every
detail. But overall itís a terrific, I think, step
forwards for our country and something that I am
very pleased and proud to have supported. And I know
the President feels the same way.
Now that we have passed that
hurdle, I am focusing more intently on trying to
understand better how the Department runs, getting
to know as many people as possible at the various
DOE facilities around the country. I have promised
myself to visit every DOE facility in the complex by
the end of this year. I think Iím going to make it ó
Iíve got four or five left I believe.
I always worry when I say that.
Itís a little like Richard Nixon running against
Kennedy. He made it to every state, I think that was
his pledge, but he didnít seem to do too well in the
election. I hope I am more successful in this
endeavor than he was.
But the real objective here is
to get to know the people of this Department and its
various functions. And thatís really why Iím here so
I will be relatively brief in my comments and be
happy to then take questions and comments from any
I understand there was supposed
to be a session of the summer institute program
going on right now and I appreciate your
rescheduling and I appreciate the number of student
participants who are here and attending this
I should mention that my
classmate and fraternity brother of many years ó
whom I havenít seen in 45 years ó Bob Wagoner has
served on the faculty here for many years. I had the
fun of a reunion with him this morning and he was
off to lecture to a group of students in a summer
institute program right after our brief session this
For more than 40 years, SLAC
has been a leader in the design and the construction
and operation of state-of-the-art electron
accelerators. This is something you all know a lot
about. Itís also been working on experimental
facilities for use in high energy physics as well as
synchrotron radiation research.
If you think back through the
list of people who have been the founders of this
Panofsky, Bjorken, Drell,
Taylor, Perl, Richter, Quinn, Addis, Prescott,
Winick, Farkus, Kunz, Breidenbach, Arnold, Atwood,
Dorfan, SeemanÖ and the
list goes on. Itís quite a list. It is arguably the
most prolific group of scientists ever gathered
together in one place at one time.
And I am in awe of the
responsibility that I have in seeing to it that this
extraordinarily prolific government-academic
partnership moves forwards in an effective way. DOE
is very proud of our relationship with Stanford and
with the people who have founded this place.
Now, those who founded the
place are being asked to expand its role from high
energy physics to increased work on photon physics.
To a chemical engineer like myself that doesnít seem
like a big change. But I am informed reliably that
itís a little bit like getting Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig,
Mickey Mantle, Joe Di Maggio, etc. and having them
coach a beach volleyball team. Itís a lot to ask.
And Iím here secondly to thank
the founders ó not just for what they have done in
the past, but for their ability and willingness to
pitch in and help create the future of this
laboratory which we will be very eager to support.
A little bit ago I had a chance
to visit SPEAR3 and the Linac Coherent Light Source
(LCLS) and I, of course, was very impressed. The
LCLS is the worldís first [hard] x-ray laser that will
provide unparalleled insights into physics,
astronomy, biology and other fields. The President
talked about that a few minutes ago. And will offer
a host of practical applications in medicine,
nanotechnology, electronics and, of course, in
energy ó something that is near and dear to my
I had a wonderful conversation
with an industry user who was using the device to
develop new drug applications for diseases that Iím
sure will be crucial in the years ahead.
I was very pleased to hear that
SPEAR3 passed a major milestone just a few weeks ago
in its progress towards operating at full capacity.
I found these world renowned facilities as well as
detector and the [particle] astrophysics presentation
quite fascinating. Any curious person would be
impressed and captivated by all this. But I am
especially interested in it because of my own
background. I am simply an engineer and have
described myself as that in the past.
The Departmentís research
facilities have special meaning for me. It is
important in my view that if our economy is to be as
productive and effective in the future as it is
today ó and as it has been for the last five decades
ó that we will have to maintain our leadership in
science. This Department has a special
responsibility for that. Private industry
increasingly has had to reduce ó or felt theyíve had
to reduce ó budgets in fundamental research that
they were much more active in when I was a young
Today, to a large degree, it is
the Federal Government that is the funder of this
kind of research. Our Department ó belying the name
of the Department ó is the primary funder of
research in the physical sciences in the Federal
Government. And I want you to know that I view that
as a special responsibility, especially as someone
that is trained as an engineer. I am a product of
the research university environment. I was educated
on an NSF fellowship ó $2200 a year ó which was a
lot of money in those days. Itís been a long time.
I come from that environment
and I believe in my heart that we will start to lose
it if we start to give up our leadership position.
And I fear that we have started. And I mean to help
ó working with Dr. Orbach and the leadership of this
laboratory and our other national laboratories as
well as the academic community ó particularly the
research academic community ó who will see what we
can do about helping.
Researchers from around the
world come here from the DOE laboratories. There
have been more than 80 Nobel Prizes that have been
won by workers, by faculty and researchers at our
labs. I think five of those laureates are [from work
done] here at SLAC. Thatís something for you all to be very
proud of. I know the people in the Energy Department
are very proud of it.
But I am here to tell you that
the challenges that our nation faces will only be
met with the power that comes from a science
environment like this one. And Iím very proud of the
central role that our Department plays.
Yet the truth is that no
equipment, no building, no facility is as important
as the people who do the work. And that is why, in
closing, I wanted to make one last plea to all of
you and that is issues related to safety.
Safety is a primary concern of
mine. It frankly became as such when I managed a
chemical company, which I did for the 15 years
before I came to the government. We had 50 plants in
24 countries that ran 24 x 7, 330 days a year. And
there was always a worry in those environments that
someone would be hurt. And we worked very hard to
I know that we had a serious
accident last fall here and that there has been a
renewed emphasis on safety here at SLAC. I implore
you to work hard to see to it that there are no more
I would like you to know that,
in my judgment, you ó the people who work here and
your colleagues at the other facilities of this
Department around the country ó are the most
important assets that we have. Not the buildings, or
the machines, or the technology. And I would implore
you to look after one another. Because thatís where
it comes from.
Thatís all I have to say. Iím
very happy and proud to be here and Iíll be happy to
take your questions. Thanks.