Tell us about yourself

My name is Joanna Casson. I have a bachelor’s degree in physics from Bryn Mawr College and a M.S. in electrical engineering from the University of New Mexico.

I have been an LSO since 2004. In 2008, I appointed the SME for laser safety at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where I work in the Physical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy Group of the Chemistry Division. I received my CLSO certification in March 2017.

When did you start working with lasers?

My senior research thesis at Bryn Mawr was on laser instabilities. After graduation, I worked for a year at Oak Ridge National Laboratory documenting undesirable mode characteristics in a CO2 laser. I have used lasers for experimental research in a variety of areas at LANL since 1996.

How did you become the LSO?

I became an LSO in 2004 shortly after a laser accident in my division shut down all laser experiments at LANL for a period of time. I was one of several Chemistry Division laser users who decided to become LSOs so that we could better help other laser users in our groups, divisions, and at LANL. Although at the time there was no LANL requirement to have any practical laser experience to be an LSO, many of us felt that that having an LSO with this experience would allow for better insight into how to apply laser safety principles to an experiment without hindering the researcher. I had been vice-chair of the LANL Laser Safety Committee (LSC) for a number of years. When the chair retired, I was elected chair of the LSC and appointed LANL's SME for Laser Safety.

Do you like being the LSO? What do you feel are the LSO’s challenges today?

I enjoy being an LSO. It gets me out into the different laboratories across LANL and enables me to learn more about the variety of research taking place around the laboratory. The safety culture at LANL is very strong. It is critical that researchers be able to accomplish their goals while still working within the necessary safety envelope. It is important to me to have knowledgeable LSOs at LANL who can help find ways to conduct experiments safely.
How has becoming certified benefited you in your career?

I have only recently become certified, but I believe it will help add credibility to what I contribute in the various ANSI and EFCOG subcommittees of which I am a member.