Kei Nakamura is one of two Associate Deputy Directors (ADD) for Experiments for the BELLA Center, as well as the scientific lead for high-field experiments. As ADD, he coordinates experimental activities within the BELLA Center, spanning topics from high-field physics, to electron, proton, and ion acceleration, as well as particle beam applications. In this role he directly manages the laser technical support team. In 2021, a new intensity-boosted laser delivery system called “Interaction Point 2” (IP2) will be added to the BELLA PW facility, and Kei is the lead scientist on this BELLA iP2 project. He oversees and guides the technical, engineering, and scientific integration of efforts by in-house, cross-divisional, and community-wide collaborators.

Read below to learn how Kei has managed his teams in successfully and safely maintaining the BELLA petawatt laser facility as well as staying on track to deliver on this major project that strives to create new experimental possibilities and capabilities in laser systems.

Maximizing Flexible Work Schedules for Productivity and Safety

Kei is proud to work with so many dedicated and talented colleagues: support staff, operational coordinators, technicians, and scientists. Safety is already a high priority for all teams, as the entire BELLA Center organization meets daily to discuss work priorities, rotations, and any safety concerns from staff. Gauging individual risk tolerances and work responsibilities, Kei has maximized telework for his teams as much as possible, even going as far as tailoring a compressed work schedule for a technician who lives outside the Bay Area so that exposure during travel and while on-site can be minimized.

After the initial shelter-in-place order and before the Lab established formal occupancy protocols, he noticed personnel in one cubicle had to wear masks during Zoom meetings because they worked in the same open area. Kei took proactive action out of empathy for his team by reaching out to leaders of another group whose offices are adjacent to see if they would be open to allowing his teammates to work in their spaces with the door closed without a mask. This assertiveness has helped his team work safely and productively throughout the past year.

Simplifying Tasks and Keeping a Virtual Open-Door Policy

For the past year, Kei has been dedicated to simplifying tasks and encouraging open, responsive communications so that his team can work as efficiently as possible under the new operating limitations. One of his tactics is scheduling meetings on Mondays and Fridays to keep the days in between as open as possible for work to be done.

In lieu of scheduling even more Zoom meetings for his teams and direct reports, he maintains a virtual open-door policy where he is open and responsive to chat messages, texts, and emails from his team. To avoid email oversaturation, he defers to using whichever communication channels his direct reports are most comfortable with as he prioritizes making work as seamless and communications as open as possible. He also continuously encourages his team to take vacation days to “recharge,” and discourages weekend work and emails.

As a result of his leadership and upper management support, his team is on track to deliver on a major milestone this fiscal year as part of the BELLA iP2 project: to construct a new beamline that can provide an ultra-high intensity laser pulse that can unlock new capabilities and experiments in frontier-research laser systems.

His colleague shares: Kei has done an excellent job keeping the work at the BELLA Center going during the pandemic. He has coordinated laser engineering work for the BELLA laser upgrades in coordination with two major projects while successfully adapting to evolving COVID work scheduling, which is no small task."