Today at Berkeley Lab

Archives for January 2011

How Now, Inside the Cow?

The network of organisms working unseen in the cow’s forestomach or rumen is providing researchers with vital information that may someday accelerate the large-scale deployment of biofuels. This will offer a window into a major category of microbes that has long resisted the attempts of scientists to grow and study. Through massive-scale DNA sequencing, researchers at Berkeley Lab’s Joint Genome Institute, with support from the Energy Biosciences Institute, have characterized the genes and genomes of plant-digesting microbes isolated from the cow rumen as reported in a study published in the Jan. 28 issue of Science. More>

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Humans and Climate Change Topic of Director's Noon Talk Today; Webcast Live

At noon today, Director Paul Alivisatos will give an overview of climate-change science, provide a brief update on the Carbon Cycle 2.0 initiative, and engage in a discussion about team science at the Lab. More specifically, he’ll explore the basic science of carbon dioxide’s influence on the atmosphere and its link to human activities. Interested staff are invited to bring a brown-bag lunch to the Building 50 Auditorium for the event. The presentation will be webcast live.

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Physical Bioscientist Wins NAS Molecular Biology Award

James Berger of the Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division has won the 2011 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Molecular Biology Award for “elucidating the structures of topoisomerases and helicases and providing insights into the biochemical mechanisms that mediate the replication and transcription of DNA.” Using Beamline 8.3.1 at the Advanced Light Source, Berger researches the crystal structures of protein motors that play pivotal roles in gene expression and replication, and are vital to the survival of all biological cells. The NAS Molecular Biology Award, which is sponsored by Pfizer Inc., consists of a $25,000 prize to recognize a recent notable discovery in molecular biology by a young scientist. More>

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World's Oldest Sunday Newspaper Puts IceCube in the News

The world’s oldest Sunday newspaper, London’s Observer, recently interviewed Spencer Klein of the Nuclear Science Division about one of the world’s newest scientific instruments, the giant IceCube neutrino observatory buried deep in the Antarctic ice. Klein discussed the observatory’s 5,000 digital optical modules (DOMs), “… an exquisitely sensitive light detector that lies at the heart of what must be one of the most ambitious projects in the history of science.” DOMs were conceived and designed by Berkeley Lab scientists and engineers including Dave Nygren, Bob Stokstad, and Jerry Przybylski. The article introduces many of the other theorists and experimenters who have worked to make IceCube a reality. More>

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EETD Grad Student Appointed to California Energy Commission

Governor Jerry Brown has appointed Carla Peterman to the California Energy Commission. Peterman is a doctoral candidate at UC Berkeley and a graduate student researcher with the Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division. Her primary research interests are renewable energy, technology innovation, and climate change mitigation policy. Peterman’s dissertation examines the effect of market transformation activities, such as subsidies, on the U.S. solar photovoltaic market. At Berkeley Lab, Peterman researches solar photovoltaic markets and the impact of renewable subsidy programs on PV deployment and cost. More>

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Change to Local Travel Rules

Effective Jan. 1, the Lab will withhold taxes associated with certain local area travel expense reimbursements. The Lab is implementing this change to ensure compliance with all applicable federal and state tax regulations. Non-compliance with federal and state regulations can result in fines or penalties. The Internal Revenue Service considers the following as taxable income to employees and subject to withholding taxes: Meals and Incidental Expenses (M&IE) reimbursed to employees on business trips less than 24 hours without an overnight stay or a documented business meeting held during the meal. Go here to see how will this affect you.

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OASDI Withholding Reduced Starting January 2011

President Obama signed the reduction in the OASDI withholding from 6.2 to 4.2 percent in December. For monthly paid employees, the OASDI reduction will be reflected on their February 1 paychecks and will include the adjustment for January 2011.

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Somorjai Wins Frontiers of Knowledge Award

Gabor Somorjai of the Materials Sciences Division has won the Frontiers of Knowledge Award from Spain’s BBVA Foundation in the category of Basic Sciences. The award, which comes with a $550K cash prize, recognizes Somorjai for “his pioneering contributions to the understanding of surface chemistry and catalysis at a microscopic and molecular level.” More>

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Secretary Chu Cites Lab, JBEI, EBI in Town Hall Response

Berkeley Lab, the Joint BioEnergy Institute, and the Energy Biosciences Institute all received praise when Energy Secretary Steve Chu answered a question about biofuels in his inaugural “Energy Matters” online town hall, held on Wednesday as a follow-up to President Obama’s State of the Union address. During the event, Chu spoke to and answered questions from both an online and in-person audience. Regarding biofuels, Chu expressed strong optimism that this country will “get there” with affordable clean, green and renewable transportation fuels, in part thanks to the success of the science at Berkeley Lab, JBEI and EBI.

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Richard Panek Discusses His New Book on Dark Energy Today

Don’t miss Richard Panek, author of “The 4% Universe,” appearing in person today at noon in the Building 50 Auditorium. Panek’s new book, published three weeks ago by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is a rollicking tale of the scientific competitions that led to the acceptance of the reality of dark matter and later to the unexpected discovery of dark energy. The book stars many of Berkeley Lab’s leading physicists and astronomers, not to mention their rivals. Copies of “The 4% Universe” will be on sale by Books, Inc. at the event.

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