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  • 2017-07-31 00:00:56
  • Article ID: 678736

EMSL Celebrates 20 Years of Scientific Achievement

Thousands of contributions to environment, energy, and biological sciences commemorated

 

RICHLAND, Wash. — A unique user facility that has helped scientists around the world shape their ideas and obtain answers to some of the most challenging scientific questions is celebrating two decades of achievement this week.

Scientists, community leaders and others will gather Aug. 3-4 to celebrate the achievements of the first 20 years of EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science User Facility located at DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash.

Using EMSL resources, scientists worldwide have authored more than 6,000 scientific manuscripts which have garnered more than 200,000 citations as other scientists build on each other's work. Those findings have helped chart the course of subsequent studies and shape the direction of current endeavors.

EMSL was proposed by former PNNL director William R. Wiley to explore connections at the molecular scale between the physical, mathematical and life sciences. While much of its initial focus was on environmental challenges such as the fate and transport of contaminants beneath the surface, the laboratory's scope has grown remarkably. EMSL resources have contributed to important findings about the environment, atmospheric processes, biofuels and bioproducts, microbiology and life sciences, catalysis, energy storage, clean fuels and other topics.

A constant throughout EMSL's years has been the creation of new ways to monitor what's happening at the molecular level in a range of materials and organisms. One of the richest areas of exploration has been in a field known as subsurface science. Much of the leading work on the use of microbes to transform and sequester radioactive waste and heavy metals in soils and deep sediments has been done by scientific users who have come together through EMSL collaborations. Such research has opened up other areas, such as a deeper understanding of microbial communities that are important for the production of biofuels and bioproducts.

EMSL scientists have led the way to develop new ways of looking at whole proteins in live cells of bacteria and other organisms, yielding a broad view of how proteins actually carry out their functions in real time. And EMSL scientists have worked with colleagues around the country to solve the structures of proteins that contribute to infectious disease — a critical step for the creation of vaccines or better treatments someday.

In the area of energy storage, scientific users have made some of the best real-time observations ever made about what's actually happening to the materials inside a battery as it operates. The findings about battery chemistry, including how a battery loses energy as it stores and releases its charge, have contributed to our knowledge about how to develop longer-lasting, higher-capacity batteries.

One of EMSL's most widely-known contributions is the creation of NWChem, an open-source high-performance-computing software package that helps scientists understand problems in the realm of molecular chemistry and biochemistry. The software, which helps scientists simulate molecular structures and reaction mechanisms, has been downloaded more than 70,000 times.

The EMSL facility covers an area bigger than four football fields, filled with premier instruments for molecular environmental science and with a production computing system, all designed to help scientists answer important questions about the environment, biology and energy. But more important than the instruments is the scientific expertise and leadership EMSL personnel offer to users. EMSL is home to more than 150 scientists, many with unique expertise. Collectively these scientists have centuries' worth of knowledge about what type of molecule might yield its secrets to, say, an NMR probe vs. a more conventional mass spectrometer, or when a measure of an organism's proteins will yield more meaningful information than a measure of its DNA.

By working with both experimental and computational scientists who have come from more than 40 nations as well every state in the United States, EMSL personnel have a feel for the pulse of research in a way that few user facilities possess. Every visitor brings unique knowledge and questions that remain part of the EMSL brain trust long after they depart, informing subsequent explorations.

"Scientific user facilities like EMSL bring together the resources, the tools, and most importantly the people to solve some of the most difficult scientific challenges," said Liyuan Liang, EMSL director. "Scientists from academic, industry and laboratories across the world join forces to tackle problems that otherwise might go unaddressed simply because they are too complex and challenging for any one scientist. We bring teams of scientists together to enable discovery."

One of the most exciting areas for EMSL now is its working relationships with other DOE Office of Science User Facilities, including the Joint Genome Institute and the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Climate Research Facility. Each offers unique resources, and for certain questions the suite of facilities offers an uncommonly broad view of certain scientific challenges.

The agenda next week includes a scientific symposium with a talk by X. Sunney Xie, a former EMSL scientist and now Mallinckrodt Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard, who will speak about "life at the single molecule level."

Also next week is a scientific meeting on "Multi-omics for microbiomes." More than 150 scientists from around the world will gather in Pasco, Wash. Aug. 1-3 to discuss the activity of communities of microbes and their importance everywhere from our bodies to the planet. The meeting is sponsored both by EMSL, as its annual meeting for its users, and by the laboratory's Microbiomes in Transition initiative.

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Discovered: A Quick and Easy Way to Shut Down Instabilities in Fusion Devices

Article describes use of second neutral beam injector to suppress instabilities on the NSTX-U

Researchers Create Molecular Movie of Virus Preparing to Infect Healthy Cells

A research team has created for the first time a movie with nanoscale resolution of the three-dimensional changes a virus undergoes as it prepares to infect a healthy cell. The scientists analyzed thousands of individual snapshots from intense X-ray flashes, capturing the process in an experiment at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

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Kathryn Hastie Wins Spicer Award for Lassa Virus Work at SLAC's X-Ray Synchrotron

Kathryn Hastie, staff scientist at The Scripps Research Institute, has spent the last decade studying how the deadly Lassa virus - which causes up to half a million cases of Lassa fever each year in West Africa - enters human cells via a cell surface receptor.

Southern Research to Play Key Role in Low Cost Carbon Fiber Project

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Newly Upgraded Laser Allows Scientists to Peer Further Into the Extreme Universe at SLAC's LCLS

Scientists at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory recently upgraded a powerful optical laser system used to create shockwaves that generate high-pressure conditions like those found within planetary interiors. The laser system now delivers three times more energy for experiments with SLAC's ultrabright X-ray laser, providing a more powerful tool for probing extreme states of matter in our universe.

Three Brookhaven Lab Scientists Selected to Receive Early Career Research Program Funding

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Upcoming 232nd ECS Meeting to Feature International Energy Summit, Nobel Laureate Lecture

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PNNL Scientist Jiwen Fan Receives DOE Early Career Research Award

Jiwen Fan of the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has been selected to receive a 2017 Early Career Research Program award from the U.S. Department of Energy. Fan will use the award to study severe thunderstorms in the central United States - storms that produce large hail, damaging winds, tornadoes, and torrential rainfall.

Three SLAC Scientists Receive DOE Early Career Research Grants

Three scientists at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory will receive DOE Early Career Research Program grants for research to find evidence of cosmic inflation, understand how plasmas excite particles to high energies and develop a way to accelerate particles in much shorter distances with terahertz radiation.

Four ORNL Researchers Receive DOE Early Career Funding Awards

Four Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers specializing in nuclear physics, fusion energy, advanced materials and environmental science are among 59 recipients of Department of Energy's Office of Science Early Career Research Program awards.

Missouri S&T Professor Earns Patent for Energy Storage Technology

ceramic engineering professor at Missouri University of Science and Technology has received a federal patent for his latest innovation, a multi-layer ceramic capacitor that could help boost energy storage in applications ranging from pulse power devices to military hardware.

James Peery Named Chief Scientist of the Global Security Directorate at Oak Ridge National Laboratory

James Peery, who has led critical national security programs at Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory, has been selected as the chief scientist of the Global Security Directorate at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.


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Creating a Molecular Super Sponge, From the Ground Up

A new uranium-based metal-organic framework, NU-1301, could aid energy producers and industry.

Physicists Move Closer to Listening in on Sub-Atomic Conversation

Calculations of a subatomic particle called the sigma provide insight into the communication between subatomic particles deep inside the heart of matter.

Meet the Director: Chuck Black

This is a continuing profile series on the directors of the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facilities. These scientists lead a variety of research institutions that provide researchers with the most advanced tools of modern science including accelerators, colliders, supercomputers, light sources and neutron sources, as well as facilities for studying the nano world, the environment, and the atmosphere.

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When Strontium Is Away, Iridium Comes Out to Play

Developing a highly active and acid-stable catalyst for water splitting could significantly impact solar energy technologies.

On Track Towards a Zika Virus Vaccine

Antibody's molecular structure reveals how it recognizes the Zika virus

Quantum Computing Building Blocks

Scientists invented an approach to creating ordered patterns of nitrogen-vacancy centers in diamonds, a promising approach to storing and computing quantum data.

Scientists Program Yeast to Turn Plant Sugars into Biodiesel

Redox metabolism was engineered in Yarrowia lipolytica to increase the availability of reducing molecules needed for lipid production.

Soils Could Release Much More Carbon than Expected as Climate Warms

Deeper soil layers are more sensitive to warming than previously thought.


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