Newswise — EMSL’s Special Science Call for Proposals challenged prospective users to submit high-impact research projects, and they delivered. The findings from some of the accepted projects will help in the development of more accurate climate models, next-generation biofuels and biochemicals, and improved nuclear waste management and contaminated site remediation.

“It was great to see the proposals submitted for the Special Science Call incorporated some very creative science utilizing our radiological capabilities – that was very exciting,” says Nancy Hess, Science Theme lead and RadEMSL contact for the Special Science Call.

Lili Paša-Tolić, EMSL mass spectrometry line manager and call contact for the HRMAC, or high resolution and mass accuracy mass spectrometry capability, also praises the quality of submissions. “The projects requesting to use the HRMAC were exceptional, and the majority of them were submitted by leading scientists in their fields,” she says.

Potential users submitted a total of 42 proposals during the Special Science Call. The external peer reviewers accepted 23 of those projects.

The CallThe Special Science Call ran from mid-April through Sept. 15, 2014. The peer reviewers tried to evaluate and approve projects upon receipt of the proposals to help expedite users’ access to EMSL’s expertise and capabilities.

“Our goal was to get our unique scientific capabilities out to the users as soon as possible to enable them to do great science as soon as possible,” says Hess.

Call guidelines encouraged users to submit proposals advancing the scientific missions of the Department of Energy and Office of Biological and Environmental Research through support of EMSL’s Science Themes. The projects were expected to focus on atmospheric aerosols, feedstocks for bioproducts and biofuels, global carbon cycling, biogeochemistry and energy materials.

The proposals were also expected to take advantage of recently established or developing technical resources at EMSL. Those unique scientific resources include RadEMSL, formerly called the Radiochemistry Annex; the Quiet Wing microscopy and NanoSIMS capabilities; and HRMAC. (Note: the HRMAC is also referred to as the 21 Tesla Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance Mass Spectrometer.)

“In the case of the instruments in the Quiet Wing and the NanoSIMS, it’s important for us to build communities in the terrestrial ecosystems, biofuels and atmospheric sciences, which typically haven’t utilized these high resolution instruments,” says Scott Lea, EMSL microscopy capability lead and call contact for the Quiet Wing and NanoSIMS capabilities. “Projects such as biomass deconstruction, carbon turnover and aerosol characterization could all take advantage of the novel, molecular scale studies these instruments provide.”

The ProjectsThe 23 accepted proposals by unique EMSL scientific resource include:


• A combined top-down and bottom-up glycoproteome analysis of O-glycoform diversity of the secretome of the lignocellulose degrading fungus Neurospora crassa, PI-Christopher Somerville, University of California at Berkeley• Building the lignin metabolic map for the production of advanced biofuels, PI-Blake Simmons, Sandia National Laboratory• Dissolved organic matter transformations in wet tropical soils: The effects of redox fluctuation, PI-Jennifer Pett-Ridge, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory• Glycosylation isoforms of heterologous fungal cellobiohydrolases (CBH1) determined by "top-down" high resolution/high accuracy mass spectrometry, PI-Jonathan Walton, Michigan State University• High-resolution, parallel measurements of wetland organic carbon and microbial community metabolism under changing redox conditions, PI-Kelly Wrighton, The Ohio State University• The effect of biogenic-anthropogenic interactions on the physical and chemical properties of atmospheric organic aerosols, PI-Sergey Nizkorodov, University of California at Irvine

Quiet Wing Microscopy and NanoSIMS Capabilities• A single cell approach to understanding a bacterial-protist food web, PI-Steven Singer, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory• High-resolution imaging of Rhodobacter sphaeroides strains with increased lipid accumulation, PI-Timothy Donohue, University of Wisconsin at Madison• Improved climate records and new biodesign strategies through a mechanistic understanding of sub-micron heterogeneity in environmental materials, PI- Alexander Gagnon, University of Washington• Isotope-resolved mapping of Fe(II)/Fe(III)-oxide redox exchange interfaces, PI-Kevin Rosso, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory• Liquid and environmental TEM as transformative capabilities in carbon cycle research, PI-James De Yoreo, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory • Multimodal imaging and chemical analysis of sea spray aerosols, PI-Nathan Gianneschi, University of California at San Diego • Spatial partitioning and differential expression by wood-degrading fungi, PI- Jonathan Schilling, University of Minnesota• Visualizing plant biomass degradation by Aspergillus niger, PI-Ronald de Vries, CBS-KNAW Fungal Biodiversity Centre

RadEMSL• Chemistry at the hematite-technetium interface. Implication for technetium mobility, PI- Nathalie Wall, Washington State University • Elucidating the behavior of technetium in spinel ferrites and polyoxometalates, model systems for oxide waste forms and naturally occurring magnetite, PI-Wayne Lukens, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory• Exploring the molecular driving forces for f-element complexation and organization in mixed solvents at interfaces, PI-Sue Clark, Washington State University• NMR spectroscopy of plutonium systems, PI- Herman Cho, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory • Nucleation and precipitation processes that affect U(VI) sequestration following phosphate addition to contaminated sediments, PI-Jeffrey Catalano, Washington University in St. Louis• Oxidative corrosion of uraninite (UO2) surfaces, PI-Joanne Stubbs, University of Chicago• Plutonium in the environment: Probing mineral surface reactions relevant to Pu transport using NMR and EPR spectroscopy, PI-Harris Mason, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory • Rhizosphere iron and carbon influence on uranium redox cycling in a wetland environment, PI-Daniel Kaplan, Savannah River National Laboratory• Understanding ferrichrome structural interaction with uranium compounds, PI-David Wunschel, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

The ScienceThe research associated with the Special Science Call is underway, and the call contacts are optimistic the projects will deliver important scientific findings.

“Many of RadEMSL proposals have a common element – the users are trying to understand molecular chemistry at a level they couldn’t access previously due the lack of appropriate instrumentation,” says Hess. “This expanded understanding of molecular chemistry will improve predictive models of contaminant fate and transport. The most important outcome from this call is better predictive models of radionuclide transport.”

Paša-Tolić is looking forward to the high-impact science made possible by the Special Call scientists using the HRMAC. She considers all of the HRMAC studies impactful in the areas of bioenergy, atmospheric prediction and climate change.

For Lea, the discoveries from the Quiet Wing- and NanoSIMS-related projects will add to the knowledge base of biological systems. “Some of the best science to come out of this call will be the greater understanding of the mechanisms for biofuel production and biomass deconstruction. There are plenty of sources for biomass, but being able to efficiently break it down into the source or precursor components for a certain chemical is the Holy Grail. Understanding these deconstruction mechanisms and being able to make them more efficient will open new pathways for energy and biochemical production.”

More information about proposal opportunities is available on the EMSL website under the Working With Us tab or by contacting User Support Office at [email protected] or 509-371-6003.

Author: John Nicksich is a communications specialist at EMSL.

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Newswise: Special Science Call Projects Announced

Credit: EMSL

Caption: EMSL Scientist Zihua Zhu monitors a test sample in EMSL’s NanoSIMS, which supports studies in atmospheric science, biology, geochemistry, materials science and nanoparticulates. The nanoSIMS is a new-generation ion microprobe that extends secondary ion mass spectrometry, or SIMS, analysis to extremely small areas or volumes while maintaining extremely high sensitivity at high mass resolution.

Newswise: Special Science Call Projects Announced

Credit: EMSL

Caption: Advancing the scientific understanding of various phenomena, including interfacial behavior, biological transformations and geochemical processes is the helium ion microscope in EMSL’s Quiet Wing. EMSL’s helium ion microscope is useful for high-resolution imaging of native microstructures and chemical analysis using a sub-nanometer probe. Shown is the sample holder.

Newswise: Special Science Call Projects Announced

Credit: EMSL

Caption: It will be used to characterize complex environmental and biological materials, EMSL’s new high resolution and mass accuracy mass spectrometry capability, or HRMAC, is a 21 Tesla Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance Mass Spectrometer. The HRMAC’s higher resolution and mass accuracy measurements ensures identification of molecular constituents in complex samples and materials. EMSL post-doctoral research assistants Tzu-Yung “Terry” Lin (center) and Jared Shaw are shown with the instrument.

Newswise: Special Science Call Projects Announced

Credit: EMSL

Caption: EMSL Scientist Nancy Washton inspects a nuclear magnetic resonance, or NMR, spectrometer used for environmental and radionuclide science. Located in RadEMSL, the 750MHz wide-bore NMR is a multimodal high-field system that offers solids, liquids and imaging capabilities. This NMR allows EMSL users to investigate radiologically active samples at high field rather than proxy model compounds, leading to an enhanced understanding of radionuclide behavior in the environment.