A minute with Martel Walls, lead technician

Martel Walls. Photo: Martel Walls

How long have you been at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and how did you end up here?

I’ve been here for about four and a half years. I was actually referred here by one of my professors in college. He noticed the work that I was doing, as well as my attention to detail, and suggested that I’d be a good fit at Fermilab. I received a letter of recommendation from him, applied for the open position and was hired in October 2017 as a Tech II. I am a very fast learner and have an almost photographic memory, so I picked up the process quickly. After two years in this role, I was promoted to lead of the group.

What do you do for the lab?

I work in the APS-TD, and I’m currently working on US-HL-LHC-AUP. My group is responsible for fabricating the coils that are going into the magnets for the accelerator upgrade at CERN.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy the fact that we are working on something that is an interesting topic of discussion within the science/physics industry. I also enjoy that we have an important role in something that is talked about all over the world.

What do you consider one of your strengths?

The way that I learn things. If I’m able to watch someone do a task, I can very easily mimic it or carry out the steps that I’ve seen. When I first started working here, I was trained by some of the most skillful techs that I have ever had the opportunity to work with. I learned so much just by watching them perform some of the delicate tasks that we do during coil fabrication. It usually takes about one to two years to fully understand and learn our process   but the way my mind works, I was able to pick it up in a little less than a year.

Do you like having a job that requires you to physically do things?

Yes, I have always had physically demanding jobs, so I am no stranger to getting my hands dirty. I like the fact that the work that I do for Fermilab has both mental and physical aspects and challenges.

What’s it like leading a team?

It is an honour to be able to lead a team. I have had the opportunity to work very closely with each one of the technicians in my group. It is a great feeling to be able to watch them accomplish their goals and strengthen their technical abilities.

What do you look forward to most in your job?

I will say that this is one of the best jobs that I’ve ever had in my life. I actually drive almost an hour to get here every day. I used to work five minutes from my house; I would take this over that any day just because it’s so engaging and there’s always something new to learn here. I feel like I’m coming here to learn, instead of just [doing] the day to day of going to work.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

My wife and kids are my world. Most of my spare time is spent with them. I have a 16-year-old son and a seven-year-old daughter who keep us very busy. I like that the work-life balance here allows me to be a lot more involved in my kids’ extracurricular activities.

What do you usually do with your kids?

My kids are very active in sports. My son plays soccer, and my daughter is playing basketball and doing gymnastics. A lot of our free time is just running them around to their activities. My son has been playing in a competitive travel soccer league for over 10 years, so he’s doing very well for himself there.  We travel everywhere for games. I’m actually getting a little bummed out because my son gets his driver’s licence this month, and a lot of that travel time was our father-and-son time.

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.