The Personal Blog of Stephen Sekula

A Grateful Laboratory

This week was a very exciting week, both for the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (“SLAC”:, where I do my research, and for me personally. Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman, a member of the U.S. Cabinet and head of the U.S. Department of Energy, visited SLAC to learn more about the laboratory, its facilities, and its research. I had the very great honor of being asked to give a short presentation to the Secretary about the BaBar experiment. The BaBar management team had organized a receiving line of students and post-docs in our control room. After meeting the Secretary, our Spokesman, David MacFarlane, introduced the Secretary to the very exciting science BaBar pursues. He then handed things over to me, at which time I described the challenge of the B factory and the way in which we mine the matter/antimatter collisions for the most interesting events.

Afterward, the Secretary gave a brief speech and took questions. He delivered the speech to over a 1000 people in an open-side tent on the green outside Central Lab. He expressed his lack of pleasure with the Energy bill that was just passed, saying it wasn’t the bill he would have wanted. This statement, while likely intentionally vague, was at least encouraging. When the Secretary of Energy leads a speech with this statement, that must mean something!

He expressed his support and excitement for the science research done through his department. While he never came close to suggesting he would champion science as a policy goal, he never seemed to express doubt in the importance of science to this nation. I had the pleasure of sitting next to my colleague and friend, Abi, with whom I’ve traveled to Washington D.C. to lobby Congress. We exchanged many surprised glances at times when the Secretary seemed more frank than we would have expected.

Afterward, I was able to meet up with the Secretary one last time to have a picture taken, along with my friend and colleague, Mandeep.

“Secretary Bodman, Mandeep, and Steve”:img:wp-content/uploads/bodman_steve_mandeep-small.jpg

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It was a real honor to have the opportunity to speak with the Secretary for even a few minutes. Getting a few minutes with somebody at the top tiers of the U.S. government is a precious thing, and I am glad I got to spend them talking about the science and technology of the B factory.