Argonne National Laboratory

Jason Carter

By Shari MacGregorDecember 19, 2016

Jason Carter is a mechanical engineer currently working on the Advanced Photon Source (APS) upgrade project to rebuild and enhance the accelerator and beamlines. The APS provides ultra-bright, high-energy, storage ring-generated X-ray beams for research in almost all scientific disciplines. Jason designs part of the vacuum system, a racetrack path that is a critical part of providing the X-ray beam.

What sort of work do you do at Argonne?

In order to make the X-ray beams, the APS uses a vacuum system — a three-quarter-mile sequence of roughly one-inch diameter, tube-like components. The system must be cooled to survive extreme radiation heat loading and provide ultra-low pressures to keep the beam running continuously.

I currently work on a 3-D analysis of our vacuum system, exploring what low pressures our pumping scheme can achieve. Our system keeps a vacuum pressure that is about the same as it is on the moon, to allow the beam to travel cleanly.

Have you been at Argonne long?

I received my bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Kansas and then joined Argonne four years ago. I started at the entry level and quickly found projects and experience to build upon. I feel very fortunate to have joined the APS as a young engineer. The community here offers a wealth of experience and history to learn from, while encouraging new and innovative ways of design and thinking.

What sort of career or professional development opportunities has Argonne provided you?

I have travelled internationally to conferences and other labs as we explore new vacuum technologies and ideas. I've learned a lot from the diverse community of labs and vendors working on accelerator-related projects. Lately, I've travelled to Italy, South Korea, Taiwan and to CERN (in France and Switzerland) for a three-month project working with the CERN vacuum group.

It's not easy to ask for three months away, but both my group leader and the design team leader for the APS upgrade project were very supportive. I am incredibly lucky to have leadership willing to invest in me like that, and I'm glad to be able to apply the new knowledge and experience to the upgrade.

How does Argonne support a positive work-life balance for you?

My wife and I are expecting our first child around the New Year. We are very excited and glad that Argonne offers a strong parental leave policy. We were very impressed with our tour of the Argonne Child Development Center and look forward to joining. It's comforting to know we will have a high-quality learning environment for our child and have close access from work.

What do you like about your work?

The analysis is challenging but rewarding and constantly pushes me to better understand the full scope of the accelerator system. We use new state-of-the-art design tools and technology to address our new challenges. Our design group explores and employs the latest computer tools, such as 3-D multiphysics, vacuum simulation and computer-aided design software to ensure our designs perform effectively and safely. We're also exploring new manufacturing and vacuum pumping technology.

What advice would you give to students interested in a career in science, technology, engineering or math?

Look at the bigger picture — don't pigeonhole yourself or your skill set. And work on your presentation skills, it's important to be able to explain yourself clearly. I've learned the difference between the work you can do and how you can communicate it. Your work becomes so much more valuable if you can communicate it well.

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