Today at Berkeley Lab

Archives for November 2011

JBEI Researchers Reach Milestone on the Road to Biofuels

Jay Keasling of the Joint BioEnergy Institute led a ground-breaking study in which the first strains of Escherichia coli bacteria were engineered to digest switchgrass biomass and synthesize its sugars into all three major transportation fuels — gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. The switchgrass, which is among the most highly touted of the potential feedstocks for advanced biofuels, was pre-treated with ionic liquid, a key to the success of this study. Also contributing to this research were Greg Bokinsky, Pamela Peralta-Yahya, Anthe George, Bradley Holmes, Eric Steen, Jeffrey Dietrich, Taek Soon Lee, Danielle Tullman-Ercek, Christopher Voigt and Blake Simmons. More>

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Mite-y Genomic Resources For Bioenergy Crop Protection

The two-spotted spider mite is a tiny pest that extracts nutrients from more than 1,000 plant species, including bioenergy feedstocks. Sequenced at the Joint Genome Institute, the mite’s genome is providing researchers with insights that could lead to more effective methods of controlling the agricultural damage it wreaks and other applications. More>

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New Blog Highlights Emerging Technologies at Berkeley Lab

What will be the next great Berkeley Lab invention? A new blog launched by Berkeley Lab Public Affairs is focusing on emerging technologies that just may be the “next big thing!” Working closely with the Lab’s Tech Transfer office, TechStream will highlight successes that have already moved to the marketplace — think PhyloChip, Aeroseal, PolyPlus, etc. — as well as those that might one day make that transition. The blog is located at techblog.lbl.gov (also available from the Lab homepage and the News Center) and is moderated by Lab communications manager Jon Weiner. Contact Weiner if you have suggestions for topics.

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Retirement Contribution Rate Increase Approved

The University of California Board of Regents Monday approved an increase in retirement plan contribution rates for both UC and its employees effective July 2013. Faculty and staff will contribute 6.5 percent of their pay and UC will contribute 12 percent to the UC Retirement Plan (UCRP) beginning July 1, 2013. Employees currently pay 3.5 percent and UC pays 7 percent. Those rates will increase to 5 and 10 percent respectively on July 1, 2012. Rates for represented employees are subject to collective bargaining. More>

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Lab Philanthropy Club Hosts Goodwill Donation Drive

The Lab’s Philanthropy Club is hosting a Goodwill donation drive on Tuesday, Dec. 13 from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Cafeteria parking lot. During these challenging economic times, Goodwill has announced that their sales have gone up but their donations have gone down. Lab employees can help out the Goodwill and clean out their closets, homes, and garages at the same time by donating gently used items. The Goodwill truck will be onsite and staffed to provide a place for employees to donate their gently used items. Go here to review guidelines for donations. Contact Heather Pinto (x4181) for more information.

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A How-To Guide to Slashing State’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2050

What will a day in the life of a Californian be like in 40 years? If the state cuts its greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 — a target mandated by a state executive order — a person could wake up in a net-zero energy home, commute to work in a battery-powered car, work in an office with smart windows, then return home and plug in her car to a carbon-free grid. A new study by a team of scientists including Margaret Torn of the Earth Sciences Division and William Morrow of the Environmental Energy Technologies Division outlines how to get there. More>

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Berkeley Lab Plays a Major Role in LHC Upgrade

A recent meeting in Geneva brought together accelerator physicists from 16 countries including the U.S. to launch the design phase for upgrading the luminosity — roughly, the number of particles the accelerator collides each second — of CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The LHC already holds the world record for luminosity, but a five to tenfold increase has been planned for around 2020 since before the collider became operational. DOE’s LHC Accelerator Research Program (LARP) in the U.S., of which Berkeley Lab is a primary participant under the leadership of the Accelerator and Fusion Research Division’s GianLuca Sabbi, is making significant progress in new materials and technologies for the powerful superconducting magnets essential to the upgrade’s success. More>

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Are You Familiar With the Hazards and Controls in Your Lab?

There are many hazards associated with working in a lab environment. These are usually mitigated via the use of engineering controls (e.g., fume hoods) and administrative procedures such as work plans (e.g., JHA’s, AHD’s, etc.). Unfortunately, sometimes serious accidents occur as discussed in a recent video entitled, “Experimenting with Danger” produced by the Chemical Safety Board. While these accidents happened at different institutions and were associated with unrelated research activities, they are connected in that rigorous hazard evaluation and control systems were lacking. This underscores the importance of integrating safety into your work. More>

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Workshop on Understanding Cultural Differences

Research has shown that diverse teams can be more effective, creative and productive than homogenous teams — but only when team members learn to collaborate effectively. To find out how your team can take advantage of cultural diversity, attend “Understanding Differences for Better Team Performance Part I” (BLI3002), a Berkeley Lab Learning Institute (BLI) workshop, on Dec. 7 from 9 a.m. to noon in Building 62-203. Sessions are also available on Feb. 28 and June 5. You’ll compare your personal cultural style with that of the top ten countries represented at the Lab, learn a variety of multi-cultural collaboration techniques, and focus on how to apply what you’ve learned on your team. Part II of this workshop, on January 10, will focus on personality styles. All employees are welcome. Registration is required.

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Check Out Benefit Events for Month of December

The Lab’s Benefits group has updated their calendar to include offerings for the month of December. Events include Fidelity presentations and new employee and postdoc orientations. The listings are on Google calendar, so you can add the events directly to your calendar. Go here to see the full listing.

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