Monday, 17 March 2008
Today's seminar was by Dr Liz Duke from the Diamond Synchrotron. Liz was the first scientist employed to develop the protein crystallography beam lines over 5 years ago and now the first 3 beamlines are taking users. She outlined the design and some of the highlights (the first time she went into the experimental hall, the first beam and the first diffraction) and the ongoing issues that they want to improve. For example the sample robot takes 4 1/2 minutes to mount a new sample and be ready to collect data, which people find slow (although in tests the quickest a person could do it was 6 1/2 minutes). By really understanding the steps where corners can be cut they hope to take another minute or so off the time. They are now finding the balance between giving users access and finding enough time for themselves to implement the improvements that people want to see. However Diamond like all large projects is under some threat from the STFC (Science and Technology Facilities Council) review of its spending commitments. They do not have enough money in the next Comprehensive Spending Review to continue all the projects currently being funded and have launched a consultation http://www.scitech.ac.uk/STFCConsultation/comment.aspx?ci=1 which closes at the end of this week. Although Diamond is a High Priority there may not be as much money for the ongoing running and development costs as are needed.