Jeffrey Pigott becomes SCSAM Executive Director

Jeffrey Pigott

On May 1, Jeffrey Pigott became Executive Director of Swagelok Center for Surface Analysis of Materials (SCSAM). Though it became official on May 1, Pigott had been serving as Acting Staff Director since November 2020, following the departure of former Executive Director, Stephanie Piatt.

As director, Pigott’s main goal is for the SCSAM staff to train Case Western Reserve University students and researchers to become independent users of the facility’s instruments. An independent user can book an instrument, load samples and do their analyses with minimal supervision from a SCSAM staff member. 

Due to COVID-19 protocols, Pigott and Associate Professor Jennifer Carter, SCSAM Faculty Director, established a training system where a SCSAM engineer can show a user how to load a sample into the instrument in person, then return to their office to complete the training remotely. There is a safe, remote connection to the computers, where the engineer can see exactly what the users see on the instrument monitors.  From the engineer’s office, they are able to walk them through the instrument operation and monitor activity, so that if the user gets stuck, they can take over. A few training sessions are required before a student or researcher becomes an independent user, and Pigott hopes to have several new independent users by the end of May, with a long term goal of having “as many independent users as possible.”

Additionally, Pigott hopes to develop new techniques throughout SCSAM and to broaden SCSAM’s user base across campus, encourage new departments and research groups to use the facility, and develop new collaborations with current and new users of the center. SCSAM is administered by the Case School of Engineering and Pigott hopes to develop a user base throughout the Case School of Engineering, as well as in the Case School of Medicine and the College of Arts and Sciences.

"The past six months serving as Acting Director (in SCSAM) have been great,” said Pigott. “We’re moving in the right direction. We have a great team to work with (Carter and SCSAM engineers John Kim and Nichole Hoven) to rebuild and rejuvenate the center.” 

One of the highlights of 2021 has been the addition of the new Apreo scanning electron microscope, which Carter acquired through a National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation grant. During his tenure as acting director and now executive director, Pigott is most proud of getting the Apreo installed and bringing a new scanning electron microscope to the facility. He is looking forward to building up capabilities of the Apreo and working with the CWRU community to leverage those capabilities. Pigott, who will be the primary staff contact for the Apreo, hopes to start training students and researchers on the instrument in late May or early June.

To make room for the new instrument, SCSAM sold four instruments.  Pigott was a leader with the sales of those instruments and took responsibility for compiling all the specifications of instruments that were sold, taking photographs and determining what was working and what wasn’t working. He worked with the IT department and export control to make sure all data was safely removed and that the operating systems were maintained. The final steps were working with movers and the buying company on deinstalling and removing the sold instruments. Currently, Pigott is overseeing the sale of even more instruments, with a goal of purchasing a new x-ray diffraction system.

During Pigott’s tenure as acting director, he led the staff through the transition to iLab for billing and scheduling.  All core facilities at CWRU use iLab, so SCSAM is now consistent with other core facilities and many other universities.  iLab makes scheduling and billing “much easier from an engineering perspective,” said Pigott.  When new users set up requests, all their billing information is already there, and it’s all linked to university grants, so the engineers don’t need to keep track of what’s in someone’s account.  Now that the data is in the system, it is very easy for one to generate data sets related to instrument usage in order to make informed decisions. 

While taking on additional responsibilities since November, Pigott continued his traditional duties of being the engineer in charge of the electron microscopes and XRD systems which means operating and maintaining the instruments as well as providing the expertise needed to generate high quality data for the users.

"You never know what you’ll get day to day (in SCSAM),” said Pigott, who began in SCSAM in June 2020 as a senior research engineer.

"There have been many changes since he started at SCSAM and Jeff has been great in weathering the storm and keeping things going as if the changes never took place,” said Kim.  “What I appreciate about Jeff is that, as a leader, he always strives to make the work at SCSAM transparent and fair for everyone involved. Jeff is very devoted and holds high standards for his work.  He genuinely cares for his coworkers’ well-being and wants them to succeed in their positions.” 

"(Pigott) has adapted to that role and still manages to be hands on and produce data or demonstrate instrument usage,” said retired SCSAM engineer Craig Bishop of Pigott’s tenure as acting director. “Quite a year, or not quite a year yet, for Jeff. I suspect, from the outside, the transitions appear nearly seamless. Quite an accomplishment.”

"Jeff's background is pretty diverse as well as his interests in seeing a variety of goals being met,” said Richard Tomazin, an engineer in the department of materials science and engineering who has worked in SCSAM for many years.  “He quickly stepped up into an active role in moving the surface analysis center in a positive direction.”