The 2016 PMI Project of the
Year Award will be presented
at PMI Global Congress 2016—
North America, 25–27 September in San Diego, California,
USA. Register at congresses.
and be sure to reserve a seat at
the PMI Professional Awards
Gala on 24 September, the
evening before Congress officially gets underway.
To apply for the 2017 PMI
Project of the Year or other
professional awards, head to
Revolutionary scientific discoveries don’t come cheap. The equipment alone can be cost-prohibitive for even the wealthiest universities and corporations. To push into the next
frontier of knowledge, researchers must find a way
to work together.
That’s where the government can be a powerful
partner. In the United States, the Department of
Energy (DOE) Office of Science supports the design,
construction and operation of large-scale, open-access facilities that are too complex and costly for
any individual institution to build or maintain alone.
(DOE is a PMI Global Executive Council member.)
The US$912 million National Synchrotron Light
Source II (NSLS-II) project in Upton, New York,
USA is the DOE’s latest contribution to the scientific community. Completed in March 2015,
NSLS-II is now the world’s most powerful photon
microscope, allowing researchers from around the
world to analyze materials with atomic precision
and observe how they behave under real-world
conditions. The facility will help scientists develop
a better understanding of nanoscale materials and
advance energy technologies, says Steven Dierker,
PhD, project director for the NSLS-II project. He’s
also a professor of physics at Texas A&M University
in College Station, Texas, USA.
“I’m sure there will be discoveries at NSLS-II in
the area of life sciences that will enable us to understand disease mechanisms and develop new drugs,”
says Dr. Dierker.
But when the project was launched in August
2005, the specifications for NSLS-II were at or
beyond state-of-the-art, particularly with respect
to magnet precision and alignment and advanced
optics. This meant substantial innovation was
needed in the R&D phase to deliver a resource that
would support cutting-edge research for the facility’s life span, which is roughly 30 years.
“Since it was R&D, there was always some risk
associated with what the results will be,” says Dr.
Dierker. “We needed to develop contingency plans
depending upon how that work would turn out.”
In order to achieve NSLS-II’s record-breaking
brightness, which translates to a higher resolu-
tion for the X-rays produced, the team partnered
with leading researchers and experts from around
the world. Advisory committees helped design an
extremely precise and stable accelerator ring system
as well as the necessary optics that would produce
the desired resolution—but the team had to procure
900 custom-built magnets.
“We needed to design these magnets with a
precision that greatly exceeded anything that had
been achieved previously,” says Dr. Dierker. “In a
number of cases, the vendors had difficulty meeting
our demanding requirements.”
The team worked with the advisory committees
to identify which requirements could be relaxed
without compromising the ring’s performance. It
also held regular workshops with global scientific
stakeholders throughout the project cycle to ensure
the facility would achieve best-in-class status. In the
end, the team was able to close the project ahead of
schedule and under budget. Careful planning even
allowed for scope enhancements that had not been
included in the baseline.
“We were able to add in about US$68 million in
National Synchrotron Light Source II
scope during the course of the project because of
the very favorable cost performance throughout the
life of the project,” says Dr. Dierker. PM
NSLS-II project during construction in
Upton, New York, USA
Location: Upton, New
Key players: U.S.
around the world
Highlight: During its
period in 2011, the
project was spending
about US$1 million
per working day.