Three SLAC employees awarded the lab’s highest honor

Three employees of the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have been recognized with the lab’s highest honor ­– the SLAC Director’s Award.

The award recognizes employees who achieve extraordinary results while modeling the lab’s values of excellence, integrity, creativity, collaboration and respect. This year’s recipients are staff scientist SILA KILICCOTE; JODI VERLEGER, interim manager of the lab’s VUE Center; and LYDIA YOUNG, director of the Mechanical Engineering and Technical Support Division.

Sila Kiliccote

Kiliccote joined the lab in 2015 to – on a modest budget – build a smart-grid program that would use scientific tools to solve fundamental energy problems and take them to the level of societal impact.

She tapped into faculty and students at Stanford and at the Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Silicon Valley campus.

“Every week, I went down to the Stanford campus and invited faculty and students to a social gathering where we talked about smart-grid challenges and started putting concepts and ideas together,” Kiliccote said. She also pitched practicum projects to CMU and brought eight students to work on it at SLAC.

Sila Kiliccote

The result was a group called Grid Integration, Systems and Mobility, or GISMo, that performs energy research in an innovative smart-grid lab at SLAC. As leader, Kiliccote said her long-range vision is to “facilitate 100 percent clean energy adoption through advances in power systems, buildings and mobility.”

“Sila built the group with external candidates and internal employees who were looking for new opportunities,” MARK HARTNEY, director of Strategic Planning, Research Partnerships & Technology Commercialization, said. “She is providing strong mentorship, giving new employees responsibility, allowing them to write proposals, taking leadership of various project elements and helping grow the team’s capabilities.”

Jodi Verleger

Jodi Verleger

After joining SLAC in August 2015, Verleger led the development of a performance tool that seeks to support better habits for having performance conversations, getting feedback and helping employees take charge of their own development.

A core team of six helped drive this effort. But Verleger knew that to develop something that would be welcomed and broadly used, the team would need input from people from across the lab. The project also relied on a large group of people who tested and provided feedback on the tool before the launch.

“Jodi will ask the right questions, and she knows how to ask them in a way that represents all groups,” said Human Resource Information System lead analyst RAMONA MIAHNAHRI. “She will try and think a problem through, but she won’t try to come up with the solution; she will leave that up to the experts.”

Lydia Young

For Young, who arrived at SLAC in August 2014, excellence and leadership are values that elevate the management of complex projects.

“Our scientists and engineers develop highly sophisticated discovery machines that are very challenging to design and build,” she said. “Excellence and leadership means that we always strive to execute efficiently, planning ahead of time so that we can build and install these instruments not only with extremely high quality, but also within budget and on time.”

Lydia Young
Lydia Young

For the future LCLS-II X-ray laser, for example, Young is developing a manufacturing plan that ensures the project proceeds as smoothly as possible from its design stage to fabrication and installation, which requires coordination of hundreds of people and several partner labs and institutions. She is also working on establishing the infrastructure to manufacture and assemble LCLS-II parts on site in an ultra-clean environment, which is an absolute requirement for the next-generation light source.

“Lydia has a natural way of bringing the best out of everyone involved in this project,” said KATHLEEN RATCLIFFE, department head for technical planning. “She sees the big picture before others do and prepares for all the challenges that are coming our way.”

Read more on the SLAC website.