Today at Berkeley Lab

Archives for January 2014

Putting Idle Smartphones to Use as Energy-Saving Tool

When is a phone not a phone? When it’s serving as an occupancy sensor for energy-saving purposes. EETD researcher Bruce Nordman had an idea several years ago to take advantage of existing devices in office buildings by using them for energy efficiency purposes. “If a building could base its operations on people actually showing up rather than a fixed schedule, the potential for energy savings could be quite large,” Nordman said. “And if you use existing devices to sense occupancy rather than wiring a dedicated sensor and maintaining it, then it’s free—you don’t have to spend money to save energy.” More>

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Autobiography of Lab’s Gabor Somorjai Released

It might seem odd to describe a Hungarian Jewish refugee who survived the Nazi holocaust and Soviet tanks as having lived a “charmed” life, but Gabor Somorjai of the Materials Sciences Division expresses a relentlessly positive and up-beat attitude in his autobiography “An American Scientist: The Autobiography of Gabor A. Somorjai.” Widely recognized as the father of modern catalysis who revolutionized the scientific understanding of surface interactions, Somorjai tells of his escape from Hungary and his landing in Berkeley, “the right place and at the right time.” He then details a career that has spanned six decades and earned him just about every honor a scientist can receive, including the National Medal of Science.

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Contra Costa College Students Visit; Learn About Science, Engineering Careers

Students from Contra Costa College’s Center for Science Excellence recently stopped by as part of Workforce Development & Education’s Berkeley Lab Educational Visit (BLEV) program. They toured the Advanced Light Source and the Mechanical Fabrication Facility, spoke with Lab scientists and engineers about their career paths and interests, and learned about internship opportunities at the Lab. Those interested in serving as a mentor or volunteer are invited to fill out this survey about your interests and availability.

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Earth Scientist George Moridis Appointed to DOE Methane Hydrate Committee

George Moridis of the Earth Sciences Division was recently appointed by U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to serve a two-year term on the Energy Department’s Methane Hydrate Advisory Committee. The committee offers advice and recommendations to the DOE on programmatic and scientific priorities for the U.S. Methane Hydrate Research and Development Program. Moridis, who heads the Hydrocarbon Resources Program, will provide “expert advice in the area of numerical simulation and modeling of hydrate systems to the Committee.” More>

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Nano-High Talk Tomorrow on Building the New Bay Bridge

Brian Maroney, the Caltrans toll bridge chief design engineer, is the featured speaker for the Nano-High lecture tomorrow, Feb. 1, at 10 a.m. in 1 Pimentel Hall on campus. He will talk about careers in engineering and, in particular, the challenge of designing an aesthetically iconic structure with a 100-year lifetime in one of the most active earthquake zones in the world. (The subject of bolts may come up.) Lab employees are encouraged to invite their high-school age children or acquaintances to attend. Adults will be accommodated on a space-available basis.

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Puzzling Question in Bacterial Immune System Answered

Jennifer Doudna of the Physical Biosciences Division, working with Samuel Sternberg, led a study reported in Nature that answered a puzzling question in the bacterial immune system. How is the enzyme known as “Cas9” able to precisely target tiny DNA sequences within genomes that are millions to billions of base pairs long? Through a combination of single-molecule imaging and bulk biochemical experiments, it has been shown that the genome-editing ability of Cas9 is made possible by the presence of short DNA sequences known as “PAM,” for protospacer adjacent motif. Cas9 is fast becoming a valuable tool for synthetic biology and genetic engineering. Other contributors to this work were Eric Greene Sy Redding and Martin Jinek. More>

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Richmond Bay Campus Executive Committee Announced

UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks recently announced the formation of an executive committee, which will lead the effort to develop the Richmond Bay Campus (RBC). The committee’s duties will include identifying potential new and expanded research opportunities with the site, including synergies with Berkeley Lab. More>

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Daylong Symposium on Feb. 14 Honors Cryo-EM Expert Ken Downing

A daylong symposium on Friday, Feb 14, will highlight life scientist Ken Downing’s remarkable contributions to the growing field of cryo-electron microscopy and feature international investigators who have worked with Downing over the years or received direct training from him. Downing’s 37-year career at Berkeley Lab has spanned an amazing range of widely recognized accomplishments in electron microscopy and related topics. Registration for this free event is required by Friday, Feb. 7. Go here to RSVP and for additional information.

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Lactation Room Reservation on Google Calendar

As part of its effort to provide a supportive, family-friendly work environment for employees, the Lab has implemented a Lactation Accommodation Program. All lactation rooms can now be reserved via the Lab’s Google calendar. To reserve, click “Rooms” on the right side of the calendar event details, type “lactation” in the “Filter Room” box, and a list of lactation rooms will appear. Go here to learn more about the program. For more information, contact the Diversity and Inclusion Office (x4232).

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Throwback Thursday…Lab Glass Blower Circa 1958

The photo depicts Norm Phillips operating a glassblower at the Lab in 1959. Glassblowers shaped and delicately manipulated glass for the specific research needs of researchers. By 1970, new metals were preferred over glass for making scientific equipment. Go here for a story on the Lab and UC Berkeley’s last glass blower.

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