A Scientific Mind – The Proton Storage Ring
I could feel the stars shifting and were brighter each evening. In those days I only saw a full moon. The sun was beaming brighter and I was beginning to feel a real sense of peace and accomplishment in my life.
I was sure my education would take me far and I knew my real life was about to begin. I just knew that I was going to do my best to live comfortably and happy. With each passing semester I was getting closer to my goal. My sagacious focus was helping me to realize my dreams. I was now on solid ground.
Well on my way to creating a better life for Aaron and I. I was convinced that I wouldn’t let Aaron down in this respect. I would now be able to support both of us without a problem and I was always good with money, saving for another chapter in our lives. One day I would be in a position to help my only child, a son realize his dream. As I watched him grow up and it became evident he was my son; he was driven like me and had the same tenacity.
After college graduation I was hired to work in a very scientific technical environment known as the Proton Storage Ring Facility (PSR). A proton beam was generated and traveled half a mile through a six-inch diameter pipe to the equipment and experiments the physicists would use for scientific data and their experiments. The job was extremely challenging and it became the my masters in my career.
My responsibility were the wire scanners which measured the intensity of the proton beam. The Fortran code had to be rewritten and modularized. C++ and Java were the programming languages of the future with the capability to embed modularized functions.
There were PhDs everywhere. I was assigned to work with Faucad. Faucad was the physicist who handled the wire scanners on the hardware end. A previous co-worker didn’t exactly give him glowing remarks and much less a recommendation.
She said, “He’s impatient, he’s hard to work with, and he is a sexist.”
My job entailed a lot. First, I had to become well versed with the computers; the Vax 11-70s and the PDP-11s as a system administrator. Then I had to pick apart the Fortran code and rewrite the code to run more efficiently with modularization.
The wire scanner’s program was run and executed by operators in a control room by pressing Lexidata touch panel graphic screens used to monitor all the equipment. Remotely manipulating the proton beam monitored 24/7. The Process modules, programs written in Fortran, would communicate with equipment modules. The equipment modules contained Fortran analog digital code which executed and controlled the scientific hardware like the wire scanners, magnets, etc. The best way to describe this scientific technical environment was to compare it to a NASA control system’s environment.
When I started the job, I made a deliberate and important decision to wear no makeup, pull her hair back in a ponytail and to wear baggy sweats and tennis shoes. It was a significant choice I made working in an all-male environment.
I would demonstrate that I was serious about my job and I was determined to earn everyone’s respect. I was also chosen by one of the directors to write the Fortran code to strip the neutrons from the proton beam. This was the foil stripper. It consisted of six thousand lines of code to control and execute the hardware for the foil stripper.
One of my favorite experiences was working with a physicist named Faucad. We were a team that worked together to resolve any problems on the wire scanner hardware. Faucad and I had gone out into the field to debug and test one of the wire scanners experiencing a problem. We found the problem and resolved it quickly. Faucad’s compliment and his rhetorical words in his beautiful Indian accent were memorable. He was from India.
He said, “You’re alright Natalie. Yes, you are. You’re alright.”
I smiled and realized I earned his respect, which meant a lot to me considering I was a female. I kept smiling and thanked him for the compliment. I said, “Thank you Faucad I really appreciate your words of encouragement.” We got along marvelously well. It was a matter of communication and solely concentrating on the problems and issues with the hardware and not our independent personalities.
But then again I was a bridge person. When I went to my first counseling session the psychologist identified me as a bridge person. Meaning I was able to fit into other people’s cultures and get along well with them. It really was attributed to my humble beginnings with my grandmother and grandfather. A very culturally enriched community I grew up in. Plus I was extra friendly and I really enjoyed people. And I still do. ~ Natalie