Chris GloverThis month our short interview features Chris Glover, principal scientist XAS (x-ray absorption spectroscopy) at the Australian Synchrotron.

Describe your job in 25 words or less.
Secretary, concierge, waiter, teacher, trainer, mechanic, electrician, engineer, programmer, safety consultant, motivator and occasional beamline police enforcer ... and scientist in the time that’s left.

Best aspect of your job?
It’s so dynamic. Exposure to new and different people and experiments makes the job interesting and engaging. There’s a great sense of achievement in sending users away with the answers they were looking for.... especially when it wasn't clear it was going to work.

Worst aspect of your job?
That it’s so dynamic. There are constant pulls on my time from different areas, and it’s hard to find a work life balance. Every user considers their experiment to be the most important, but we need to balance the time we can devote to each user. Managing expectations – my own and users – isn’t always fun. The lack of opportunities to perform my own research.

Apart from the Australian Synchrotron, what's the coolest job you've ever had?
I think working as a beamline scientist is a pretty cool job. I also still like making hay on the farm where I grew up on, though I’ve never been paid for any of it!

Best things about living in Melbourne and why?
I can afford to live right on the bay. There’s no way that would happen in a warmer city! Melbourne offers good surfing and attracts lots of events, which Melburnians come out to enjoy rain, hail (or sometimes) shine.

Your favourite overseas destination and why?
I love anywhere warm. I love continental Europe in August – finding somewhere to go running under the late sunset and then eating a late dinner. San Francisco is a favourite for the lifestyle and people. Japan, Singapore and Asia are awesome because I’m very drawn to Eastern culture. I always keep my eye out for upcoming conferences in India, Thailand and Bali.

What’s the most unusual or interesting sample you’ve seen on the XAS beamline here?
Last week we analysed what looked like large pieces of paper but turned out to be a special gel embedded with proteins that had been treated with certain drugs.

What is the biggest achievement to date for your section at the Australian Synchrotron?
The biggest achievement will be completing the final touches to the beamline. Commissioning our most recent addition – a $1.8 million detector – has been extremely challenging, but the initial results look extremely good.

What is the biggest challenge for your section at the Australian Synchrotron?
There are two and they are intimately related. Making the equipment work well enough to get very good data is a bigger challenge than most users realise. XAS is really, really sensitive to energy, flux and beam position stability all at the same time as scanning the monochromator. The second challenge is the broad diversity of the types of experiments users wish to perform, which means lots of different setups. We need to carefully balance the need to offer reliable stable measurements for standard samples with the potential to expand the range of measurement possibilities.

What is the best piece of advice you would like to offer users and potential users?
Communicate with us. Read the information on the website and in the call for proposals carefully; if it’s not clear then contact us. We always advise new users of the beamline to contact us before putting in a proposal so any issues can be identified and addressed; this part of the job is particularly rewarding for me – except in the last few days prior to the proposal deadline! Some people write proposals that are not feasible to perform here, but are on other beamlines where they have been previously. This is a shame given the effort that goes into preparation and review. Oh, and make sure to prepare really, really good samples ... it’s concerning for us the number of issues that arise from poor sample preparation.