Today at Berkeley Lab

Archives for February 2012

JBEI Start-Up Seeks to Biosynthesize Petrochemicals

Petrochemicals are found in thousands of everyday products, from clothing to food preservatives to plastics. Imagine if many of those chemicals could be made without petroleum and instead with biological processes. Using the tools of synthetic biology scientists at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have done just that, and now a startup company has been formed to commercialize the technology. Lygos is the first company to spin out of JBEI, which was established in 2007 to pursue breakthroughs in the production of cellulosic biofuels. More>

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Molecular Whiz Tackles Carbon Capture, Natural Gas

[Greenwire] When he started fiddling around in the laboratory, building metal ions into pieces of crystalline scaffolding that resemble tinker toys, Omar Yaghi had no higher purpose in mind. Back then his office was full of models. They depicted different metal-organic frameworks — or MOFs — made by mixing organic chemicals and metals such as zinc oxide in different proportions and conditions. “I went into chemistry, really, for the beauty of molecules,” he said. “I didn’t want to solve any societal problem.” More>

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Gulf on Open Access to Federally Financed Research

[New York Times] The Office of Science and Technology Policy will soon submit to Congress a progress report on its search for a balanced approach to the contentious and complex question of how government-financed scientific research should be disseminated. Advocates of “open access,” including scientists, libraries and universities, say that reports of government-funded scientific discoveries should be made available on the Web for free. Opponents, including private and nonprofit publishers and professional societies, argue that an unfettered policy would bankrupt journals and make a shambles of the peer-review and article selection system. Lab researcher Michael Eisen is quoted in the story. More>

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New Workshop on Interviewing in Industry

The Berkeley Lab Learning Institute is hosting a workshop on Wednesday, March 7, from 10 a.m. to noon to help postdocs and GSRAs successfully compete for jobs in private industry. Participants will learn about the skills and traits employers are looking for, interview preparation, and negotiations. The class will be led by EETD battery researcher Michael Foure, who estimates he’s conducted at least 1,500 interviews when he worked in the private sector. Registration is required.

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Two States Climb Aboard New, 100-Gigabit Fast Train

Indiana and Ohio are the first states to take advantage of the next-generation backbone being built out by Internet2 and the Energy Department’s Energy Sciences Network, linking in-state academic research networks to the 100-gigabits/sec cross-country network. The backbone now stretches nearly 4,000 miles, linking New York, Washington, D.C., Cleveland, Chicago, Kansas City, Denver, Salt Lake City and Sunnyvale, Calif. Indiana in January became the first state to link its research and education network to the backbone with a 100-gigabits/sec link from Indianapolis to Chicago. More>

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Staff Invited to Join Web Chat With UC President Mark Yudof

UC President Mark Yudof will conduct a web chat with employees this Friday from noon to 1 p.m. on UC’s UStream channel. It will be hosted and moderated by Penny Herbert and Kevin Smith, staff advisors to the regents. Topics to be covered include state funding for UC, campus climate issues, and administrative efficiencies. Staff will be able to view the web chat, or log in and join the live conversation (UStream account must be created). Questions can also be submitted in advance on the Staff Advisors’ website.

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Control Element Behind Disease-Causing Protein Misfolding Identified

Paul Adams (far left) of the Physical Biosciences Division led a team that used the ALS beamlines at the Berkeley Center for Structural Biology to discover a critical control element with chaperonin, the protein complex responsible for the correct folding of other proteins. The “misfolding” of proteins has been linked to many diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and some forms of cancer. Other members of the discovery team were Jose Pereira (center right), Corie Ralston (center left), Nicholai Douglas, Ramya Kumar, Tom Lopez, Ryan McAndrew (far right), Kelly Knee, Jonathan King and Judith Frydman. More>

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Lab Staff Mentor Teen Girls in Smartphone App Development

Late Tuesday afternoons, a group of more than 60 high school girls from Berkeley and Albany heads up to Berkeley Lab for a series of 10 two-hour workshops to develop science education apps for Android smart phones. The girls are being mentored by 20 women who work at the Lab. After vetting the idea with potential users, the girls must then develop a business plan and pitch their idea to a panel of judges on April 28. Judges will select one app to compete against apps from sessions held around the Bay Area and in other states. The winning app will be professionally developed and distributed on the Android Market. More>

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Thursday ESD Talk on Using Islands to Understand Soils and Ecosystems

On Thursday, the Earth Sciences Division will host a Distinguished Scientist Seminar Series featuring Peter Vitousek, who will discuss “Islands as Model Systems for Understanding Soils, Ecosystems, and Human-Environment Interactions.” He will explain why the Polynesian Islands are particularly valuable for understanding human-land interactions and talk about plans to extend the analysis to other islands of Polynesia. The seminar begins at 10:30 a.m. in Building 50 Auditorium and will be followed by a question and answer session at 11:30 a.m.

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Energy Internships For UC Berkeley Undergrads in Summer 2012

The Cal Energy Corps, a UC Berkeley undergraduate internship program created to give students the opportunity to pursue challenging, hands-on projects in energy and climate research around the world, is now accepting applications for summer 2012. Opportunities are available in Brazil, Germany, Ghana, Hong Kong, India, Nicaragua, China, Taiwan, as well as in the Bay Area. Interns are provided with a $600 weekly stipend as well as funding to cover transportation and housing costs. All placements are full-time. More>

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