DOE News
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    The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
    • 2020-07-01 08:00:38
    • Article ID: 734039

    Science Snapshots July 2020

    microbial behavior, plant engineering, triple-pane windows, ferroelectricity

    • Credit: Michal Hammel/Berkeley Lab

      Change in the architecture of the bacterial chromosome during the adaptation to an acidic environment is controlled by the DNA binding protein called HU and its interaction with DNA.

    • Credit: JBEI/Berkeley Lab

      A leaf with various synthetic promoters expressing Green Fluorescent Protein, demonstrating the range of expression levels that can be achieved with their engineered promoters.

    • Credit: Berkeley Lab

      Berkeley Lab’s “thin triple” high-performance window can save on heating and cooling costs compared to typical double-pane windows.

    • Credit: Salahuddin et al./Berkeley Lab

      Researchers from Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley grew a new type of ferroelectric – doped hafnium oxide, 1.8 nanometers thick – onto silicon. Not only did the ultrathin material demonstrate ferroelectricity, but the effect was actually stronger than the material several nanometers thicker.

    Study Gains New Insight Into Bacterial DNA Packing
    New Berkeley Lab discovery provides target for developing strategies to control microbial behavior
    By Julie Chao

    When bacteria are put in different environments, such as one that is more acidic or anaerobic, their genes start to adapt remarkably quickly. They’re able to do so because the proteins making up their chromosome can pack and unpack rapidly. Now, a Berkeley Lab-led team of researchers has been able to capture this process at the molecular level using advanced imaging techniques, a discovery that could eventually enable scientists to develop strategies to control microbial behavior.

    The researchers used multiple high-powered X-ray techniques at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source (ALS), a Department of Energy Office of Science user facility, to image the process in E. coli bacteria at the micro-, meso-, and nanoscales. The imaging technique they developed enabled them to visualize the bacteria’s chromosome at higher resolutions than ever before, and without the need for labeling, which slows down the process but is required by most other techniques. Their study was published recently in the journal Nature Communications.

    “We now understand how the packing of the DNA is controlled by the DNA binding proteins, called HU, interacting with each other,” said Michal Hammel, the corresponding author of the paper and a research scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Biophysics and Integrated Bioimaging (MBIB) Division. “So now we can try to figure out how to control it, how to inhibit or accelerate the packing of the DNA. If you can change packing of DNA, you can change bacterial behavior; then you can start developing alternative approaches to fighting bacterial infections.”

    The team included Carolyn Larabell, MBIB faculty scientist and director of the National Center for X-Ray Tomography at the ALS, and the lead authors were Soumya Govinda Remesh and Subhash Verma of the National Cancer Institute.

    New Synthetic Biology Tools Unlock Complex Plant Engineering
    The tools provide the fine control needed for bioenergy and sustainable agriculture efforts
    By Emily Scott

    Researchers at JBEI have developed a new set of synthetic biology tools that could unlock advanced plant engineering.

    The ability to genetically engineer plants is key for creating sustainable agriculture and renewable energy. But the methods currently used to engineer plants are underdeveloped compared to those for bacteria, limiting scientists in their ability to add preferable traits or delete unwanted ones.

    To meet this need, researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) developed a set of synthetic plant promoters — which are required for a gene to be expressed in a plant — that will help scientists engineer more sophisticated traits in plants. Their work, led by Patrick Shih, is published in Nature Chemical Biology.

    Shih, director of Plant Biosystems Design at JBEI, said this research provides a proof of concept that plant promoters can be tailor-made to achieve a specific gene expression pattern.

    “There’s a lot of excitement in the field there. We’ve been stuck with using whatever promoters already exist,” Shih said. “If we can design them from scratch, it allows us to not only engineer various traits into plants, but it also opens up the window to study plant biology in a whole different way using synthetic biology.”

    These new synthetic promoters allow scientists to control how much or how little a gene is expressed, providing more control. They also allow for genes to be expressed in a specific part of the plant, such as the roots or the leaves. These functionalities have previously been challenging to achieve.

    “The ability to design and build custom-made promoters now gives us the flexibility to go after different targets and applications,” Shih said. “It opens the door to really sophisticated synthetic biology efforts in the future.”

    JBEI is a DOE Bioenergy Research Center supported by DOE’s Office of Science.

    High-Performance Windows to Benefit Low-Income California Communities
    Berkeley Lab to continue partnerships with industry to conduct rigorous evaluation of high-performance windows installed in low-income California communities
    By Kiran Julin

    Buildings account for a whopping 40% of total U.S. energy consumption, and windows are responsible for approximately 10% of that. High thermal performance windows reduce combined heating and cooling energy consumption of typical single family homes in California by up to 50% compared to existing single-pane windows, which are still found in 6.5 million, or 50%, of homes in California.

    A $1.85 million grant by the California Energy Commission’s (CEC’s) Electric Program Investment Charge was recently awarded to Berkeley Lab to install energy-saving, thin-glass triple-pane windows in low-income communities in California. Thanks to years of investment and support from the CEC and the Department of Energy (DOE), Berkeley Lab researchers will work with industry partners to retrofit these high-performance windows into two multi-family buildings, each with eight tenant units, and 30 single-family housing units, all located in low-income California communities. 

    “By partnering with building and window manufacturers, including Cornerstone Building Brands, we hope that this demonstration project will remove barriers to the development and widespread adoption of highly insulating window technologies in the retrofit and new construction markets,” said Berkeley Lab Principal Scientific Engineering Associate Robert Hart, who is the lead researcher on highly insulating windows. “With more widespread adoption, energy-efficient technologies such as thin-triple windows, can become even more affordable and accessible.” 

    For more, click here.

    For more background on these windows, click here.

    Ultrafine Control: Researchers Discover Ferroelectricity at the Atomic Scale
    New findings made possible by Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry and Advanced Light Source could lead to ultrathin materials that control the smallest electronic devices
    By Theresa Duque

    A team of researchers led by Sayeef Salahuddin, faculty scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences at UC Berkeley, has managed to grow onto silicon an ultrathin material that demonstrates a unique electrical property called ferroelectricity. Their findings were published in the journal Nature.

    Ferroelectricity refers to a class of materials that can not only achieve spontaneous electric polarization, but also reverse the direction of polarization when exposed to an external electric field, which is promising for electronics.

    Although researchers had previously stabilized ferroelectricity in ultrathin materials, past studies observed that ferroelectricity diminishes in conventional ferroelectric materials thinner than around 3 nanometers (3 billionths of a meter).

    The Berkeley Lab-led team’s breakthrough reported in the current study demonstrates that ferroelectric effects can be enhanced in a material just 1 nanometer thick. As a result, the material – when engineered into a logical storage or switching device – can efficiently control the smallest devices with lower amounts of energy.

    The finding could lead to the creation of more advanced batteries and sensors. But the work is “especially relevant to next-generation low-power microelectronics,” said co-author Jim Ciston, a staff scientist at the Molecular Foundry who led the electron microscopy portion of the project.

    The material’s structural characteristics were confirmed using transmission electron microscopy at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry.

    At Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source, the researchers employed sophisticated X-ray absorption spectroscopy, X-ray linear dichroism, and photoemission electron microscopy techniques to explore the material’s structural and electronic origins of ferroelectricity.

    In 2019, Ciston was one of 315 researchers selected to receive the prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for scientists and engineers, which partially funded his work on the study.

    Adapted from a news release by Thomas Lee, UC Berkeley, School of Engineering

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    AI software enables real-time 3D printing quality assessment

    AI software enables real-time 3D printing quality assessment

    Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers have developed artificial intelligence software for powder bed 3D printers that assesses the quality of parts in real time, without the need for expensive characterization equipment.

    A Shining Example of Nature Leading the Way

    A Shining Example of Nature Leading the Way

    From oil refining to automobile pollution-control devices to the bulk of pharmaceuticals, platinum-group metals are the go-to choice for facilitating chemical reactions. It's been that way for decades. But a new review article in the August 14 issue of the journal Science, led by first author Morris Bullock of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, provides a road map toward greater use of Earth-abundant metals, which would reduce cost and environmental impact.

    UChicago scientists discover way to make quantum states last 10,000 times longer

    UChicago scientists discover way to make quantum states last 10,000 times longer

    Scientists discovered a simple modification that allows quantum systems to stay operational 10,000 times longer than previous systems.

    SLAC scientists invent low-cost emergency ventilator and share the design for free

    SLAC scientists invent low-cost emergency ventilator and share the design for free

    Researchers at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have invented an emergency ventilator that could help save the lives of patients suffering from COVID-19, the disease caused by novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

    Scientists propose method for eliminating damaging heat bursts in fusion device

    Scientists propose method for eliminating damaging heat bursts in fusion device

    Researchers discover a technique for widening the windows of plasma current to enhance suppression of edge localized modes (ELMs) that can damage tokamak facilities.

    A team of international physicists join forces in hunt for sterile neutrinos

    A team of international physicists join forces in hunt for sterile neutrinos

    The MINOS+ and Daya Bay neutrino experiments combine results to produce most stringent test yet for the existence of sterile neutrinos.

    Explosive nuclear astrophysics

    Explosive nuclear astrophysics

    An international team has made a key discovery related to "presolar grains" found in some meteorites. This discovery has shed light on stellar explosions and the origin of chemical elements. It has also provided a new method for astronomical research.

    Aug. 2020 Science Snapshots

    Aug. 2020 Science Snapshots

    *Subtropical weather phenomenon likely to bring greater rainfall - and drought - by 2100 *A Q&A with scientist Bin Wang on how Berkeley Lab is helping cities prepare for a major shift in our transportation and grid sectors *Berkeley Lab founder, cyclotron inventor, and Nobel laureate Ernest Lawrence, honored with a Memorial Highway in his home state.

    New Science Behind Algae-based Flip-flops

    New Science Behind Algae-based Flip-flops

    UC San Diego researchers formulated polyurethane foams, made from algae oil, to meet commercial specifications for midsole shoes and the foot-bed of flip-flops. Their latest result, in a series of recent research publications, offers a complete solution to the plastics problem--at least for polyurethanes.

    Horizon31 startup licenses ORNL global communication system for drones

    Horizon31 startup licenses ORNL global communication system for drones

    Horizon31, LLC, of Knoxville, Tenn., has exclusively licensed a novel communication system that allows users to reliably operate unmanned vehicles such as drones from anywhere in the world using only an internet connection.


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    Workshop aimed at encouraging women and minority students to consider careers in plasma physics goes online

    Workshop aimed at encouraging women and minority students to consider careers in plasma physics goes online

    A dozen undergraduate students spent the afternoon doing experiments aimed at teaching them some fundamentals about electromagnets through PPPL's Undergraduate Workshop in Plasma Physics.

    Wayne State receives DOE grant to develop catalysts for renewable energy generation

    Wayne State receives DOE grant to develop catalysts for renewable energy generation

    This research will focus on the development of efficient electrochemical systems for energy generation and storage. The proposed work will have a significant impact on the development of efficient energy conversion systems.

    Natalie Roe Named Berkeley Lab's Associate Director for Physical Sciences

    Natalie Roe Named Berkeley Lab's Associate Director for Physical Sciences

    Natalie Roe, who joined Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) as a postdoctoral fellow in 1989 and has served as Physics Division director since 2012, has been named the Lab's Associate Laboratory Director (ALD) for the Physical Sciences Area. Her appointment was approved by the University of California. The announcement follows an international search.

    Brookhaven Lab Partners in New $40 M Research Center to Convert Sunlight to Liquid Fuels

    Brookhaven Lab Partners in New $40 M Research Center to Convert Sunlight to Liquid Fuels

    UPTON, NY--The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced $40M in funding over five years for a new research center aimed at developing hybrid photoelectrodes for converting sunlight into liquid fuels. Chemists from DOE's Brookhaven National Laboratory will be key partners in this effort, dubbed the Center for Hybrid Approaches in Solar Energy to Liquid Fuels (CHASE), which will be led by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) and includes additional collaborators at Emory University, North Carolina State University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale.

    Fermilab scientist Laura Fields receives $2.5 million DOE award to study beams of shape-shifting ghost particles

    Fermilab scientist Laura Fields receives $2.5 million DOE award to study beams of shape-shifting ghost particles

    Laura Fields has won an Early Career Research Award from the Department of Energy to help physicists better understand the composition of neutrino beams used by Fermilab experiments. Her work will help gather and validate results that could shed light on why the universe consists of something rather than nothing.

    Summer Sundays Go Virtual

    Summer Sundays Go Virtual

    rookhaven Lab is moving its Summer Sunday program to an online format for 2020. Over three Sundays this summer, the Lab will host a series of live, virtual events for everyone to interact with the Lab in a new way. Each event will feature a guided tour of a Brookhaven Lab facility followed by a live Q&A with a panel comprised of the facility's scientists.

    Geothermal Brines Could Propel California's Green Economy

    Geothermal Brines Could Propel California's Green Economy

    Deep beneath the surface of the Salton Sea, a shallow lake in California's Imperial County, sits an immense reserve of critical metals that, if unlocked, could power the state's green economy for years to come. These naturally occurring metals are dissolved in geothermal brine, a byproduct of geothermal energy production. Now the race is on to develop technology to efficiently extract one of the most valuable metals from the brine produced by the geothermal plants near the Salton Sea: lithium.

    Magnum Venus Products licenses ORNL co-developed additive manufacturing technologies

    Magnum Venus Products licenses ORNL co-developed additive manufacturing technologies

    The Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has licensed two additive manufacturing-related technologies that aim to streamline and ramp up production processes to Knoxville-based Magnum Venus Products, Inc., a global manufacturer of fluid movement and product solutions for industrial applications in composites and adhesives.

    Berkeley Lab Part of Multi-Institutional Team Awarded $60M for Solar Fuels Research

    Berkeley Lab Part of Multi-Institutional Team Awarded $60M for Solar Fuels Research

    The Department of Energy has awarded $60 million to a new solar fuels initiative - called the Liquid Sunlight Alliance (LiSA) - led by Caltech in close partnership with Berkeley Lab. LiSA will build on the foundational work of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP).

    Will Fox wins 2020 John Dawson Award for producing new insights into astrophysical shockwaves

    Will Fox wins 2020 John Dawson Award for producing new insights into astrophysical shockwaves

    Profile of PPPL winner of APS Dawson Award for outstanding achievement in plasma physics research.


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    Harvesting Energy from Light using Bio-inspired Artificial Cells

    Harvesting Energy from Light using Bio-inspired Artificial Cells

    Scientists designed and connected two different artificial cells to each other to produce molecules called ATP (adenosine triphosphate).

    Engineering Living Scaffolds for Building Materials

    Engineering Living Scaffolds for Building Materials

    Bone and mollusk shells are composite systems that combine living cells and inorganic components. This allows them to regenerate and change structure while also being very strong and durable. Borrowing from this amazing complexity, researchers have been exploring a new class of materials called engineered living materials (ELMs).

    Excavating Quantum Information Buried in Noise

    Excavating Quantum Information Buried in Noise

    Researchers developed two new methods to assess and remove error in how scientists measure quantum systems. By reducing quantum "noise" - uncertainty inherent to quantum processes - these new methods improve accuracy and precision.

    How Electrons Move in a Catastrophe

    How Electrons Move in a Catastrophe

    Lanthanum strontium manganite (LSMO) is a widely applicable material, from magnetic tunnel junctions to solid oxide fuel cells. However, when it gets thin, its behavior changes for the worse. The reason why was not known. Now, using two theoretical methods, a team determined what happens.

    When Ions and Molecules Cluster

    When Ions and Molecules Cluster

    How an ion behaves when isolated within an analytical instrument can differ from how it behaves in the environment. Now, Xue-Bin Wang at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory devised a way to bring ions and molecules together in clusters to better discover their properties and predict their behavior.

    Tune in to Tetrahedral Superstructures

    Tune in to Tetrahedral Superstructures

    Shape affects how the particles fit together and, in turn, the resulting material. For the first time, a team observed the self-assembly of nanoparticles with tetrahedral shapes.

    Tracing Interstellar Dust Back to the Solar System's Formation

    Tracing Interstellar Dust Back to the Solar System's Formation

    This study is the first to confirm dust particles pre-dating the formation of our solar system. Further study of these materials will enable a deeper understanding of the processes that formed and have since altered them.

    Investigating Materials that Can Go the Distance in Fusion Reactors

    Investigating Materials that Can Go the Distance in Fusion Reactors

    Future fusion reactors will require materials that can withstand extreme operating conditions, including being bombarded by high-energy neutrons at high temperatures. Scientists recently irradiated titanium diboride (TiB2) in the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) to better understand the effects of fusion neutrons on performance.

    Better 3-D Imaging of Tumors in the Breast with Less Radiation

    Better 3-D Imaging of Tumors in the Breast with Less Radiation

    In breast cancer screening, an imaging technique based on nuclear medicine is currently being used as a successful secondary screening tool alongside mammography to improve the accuracy of the diagnosis. Now, a team is hoping to improve this imaging technique.

    Microbes are Metabolic Specialists

    Microbes are Metabolic Specialists

    Scientists can use genetic information to measure if microbes in the environment can perform specific ecological roles. Researchers recently analyzed the genomes of over 6,000 microbial species.


    Spotlight

    Graduate student at PPPL Ian Ochs wins top Princeton University fellowship
    Friday April 17, 2020, 05:25 PM

    Graduate student at PPPL Ian Ochs wins top Princeton University fellowship

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    Barbara Garcia: A first-generation college student spends summer doing research at PPPL
    Tuesday September 24, 2019, 04:05 PM

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    Argonne organization's scholarship fund blazes STEM pathway
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    Brookhaven Lab, Suffolk Girl Scouts Launch Patch Program
    Friday September 13, 2019, 11:30 AM

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    From an acoustic levitator to a
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    From an acoustic levitator to a "Neutron Bloodhound" robot, hands-on research inspires PPPL's summer interns

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    Friday August 30, 2019, 10:00 AM

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    PPPL apprenticeship program offers young people chance to earn while they learn high-tech careers
    Thursday August 01, 2019, 12:05 PM

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    JSA Awards Graduate Fellowships for Research at Jefferson Lab
    Monday July 08, 2019, 03:00 PM

    JSA Awards Graduate Fellowships for Research at Jefferson Lab

    Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility

    ILSAMP Symposium showcases benefits for diverse students, STEM pipeline
    Monday May 20, 2019, 12:05 PM

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    Argonne National Laboratory

    Integrating Scientific Computing into Science Curricula
    Monday May 13, 2019, 11:05 AM

    Integrating Scientific Computing into Science Curricula

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    Students from Minnesota and Massachusetts Win DOE's 29th National Science Bowl(r)
    Monday April 29, 2019, 02:05 PM

    Students from Minnesota and Massachusetts Win DOE's 29th National Science Bowl(r)

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    DOE's Science Graduate Student Research Program Selects 70 Students to Pursue Research at DOE Laboratories
    Friday April 12, 2019, 03:05 PM

    DOE's Science Graduate Student Research Program Selects 70 Students to Pursue Research at DOE Laboratories

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    Young Women's Conference in STEM seeks to change the statistics one girl at a time
    Thursday March 28, 2019, 03:05 PM

    Young Women's Conference in STEM seeks to change the statistics one girl at a time

    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

    Students team with Argonne scientists and engineers to learn about STEM careers
    Tuesday March 12, 2019, 05:05 PM

    Students team with Argonne scientists and engineers to learn about STEM careers

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    Lynbrook High wins 2019 SLAC Regional Science Bowl competition
    Wednesday February 13, 2019, 02:05 PM

    Lynbrook High wins 2019 SLAC Regional Science Bowl competition

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    Thursday January 24, 2019, 01:05 PM

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    Friday January 18, 2019, 05:05 PM

    Chemistry intern inspired by Argonne's real-world science

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Chasing a supernova
    Friday January 18, 2019, 04:05 PM

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    Argonne intern streamlines the beamline
    Tuesday January 08, 2019, 02:05 PM

    Argonne intern streamlines the beamline

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Research on Light-Matter Interaction Could Lead to Improved Electronic and Optoelectronic Devices
    Thursday October 11, 2018, 04:00 PM

    Research on Light-Matter Interaction Could Lead to Improved Electronic and Optoelectronic Devices

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    Innovating Our Energy Future
    Wednesday October 03, 2018, 07:05 PM

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    Tuesday September 04, 2018, 11:30 AM

    New graduate student summer school launches at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

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    Friday August 31, 2018, 06:05 PM

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    Friday August 31, 2018, 02:05 PM

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    Argonne hosts Modeling, Experimentation and Validation Summer School
    Friday August 24, 2018, 11:05 AM

    Argonne hosts Modeling, Experimentation and Validation Summer School

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    Wednesday August 22, 2018, 01:05 PM

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    Wednesday August 22, 2018, 10:05 AM

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    CSUMB Selected to Host Architecture at Zero Competition in 2019
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    Tuesday July 03, 2018, 11:05 AM

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    Friday June 15, 2018, 10:00 AM

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    Monday May 07, 2018, 10:30 AM

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    Students from Massachusetts and Washington Win DOE's 28th National Science Bowl(r)
    Wednesday May 02, 2018, 04:05 PM

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    Q&A: Al Ashley Reflects on His Efforts to Diversify SLAC and Beyond
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