Today at Berkeley Lab

Lab Staff Make Key Contributions to National Lab Science Day on Capitol Hill


Forty staff members from across the DOE national lab complex, including nine from Berkeley Lab, helped convey the contributions of the lab to Congressional members and staff during National Lab Science Day. The event was held Wednesday, April 20, in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Part of a series of follow-on events to the 2014 National Lab Day on the Hill,  National Lab Science Day articulated the important role of DOE as a host to world-leading, large-scale scientific facilities and as a powerhouse of forefront fundamental and applied scientific research that ensures future capabilities in energy, environment, national security, and the economy.

The timing was perfect as that same day, the U.S. Senate passed the first broad energy bill since 2007. Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, co-author of the bill, participated in the DOE event. Other elected officials attending included Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin, Idaho Sen. James Risch, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, Illinois Representatives Randy Holtgren and Bill Foster, Tennessee Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, and Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse. Staff from many senators’ offices also attended.

“We have nothing but very positive comments all round about yesterday’s National Lab Science Day event, from the Secretary, Office of Science management, lab directors and participants,” wrote David MacFarlane to lab participants. MacFarlane, Chief Research Officer and Deputy ALD for Science at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, was one of two planning leads for the event. “You all deserve enormous credit for pulling together an exciting set of exhibits that were very engaging while also well representing the full breadth and capability in science across the lab complex.”

The event centered on five theme areas: Science and Computation, Science and Energy, Science and the Environment, Science and Facilities and Science and the Universe. Multi-lab teams developed and staged the displays, which blended hands-on displays, videos and 60-second overviews.

Bill Collins of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Jon Bashor of Computing Sciences and Melissa Summers of Energy Sciences played key roles in developing exhibits for the Science and Environment, Science and Computing, and Science and Energy themes, respectively. Also attending as presenters were Frances Houle (Chemical Sciences), Lauren Rotman (ESnet), Carl Steefel (Energy Geosciences), Irina Silva (JBEI) and Chenhui Zhu (ALS). In all, 17 Berkeley Lab staff contributed to the event.

Bashor, communications manager for Computing Sciences, coordinated the Science and Computation display, recruiting staff from Argonne, Oak Ridge, Lawrence Livermore and SLAC to show how supercomputers are integral to scientific discovery, national security and economic competitiveness. Rotman, leader of ESnet’s Science Engagement Team, demonstrated how ESnet runs a dedicated science network linking the national labs and collaborators around the world. An interactive video display allowed visitors to watch short simulations showing how researchers use supercomputers to answer challenging questions of national importance.

The Science and Energy theme featured exhibits that showcased the contributions of national lab scientists to all aspects of energy generation, transmission and use in the U.S. The exhibits featured the work of national lab scientists in biofuels production, solar fuels generation, next-generation photovoltaic electricity production, energy efficient solid-state cooling, energy storage, carbon sequestration, and nuclear waste remediation.

Under the Science and Energy umbrella, the Joint BioEnergy Institute’s Irina Silva and Jenny Mortimer collaborated with Idaho National Laboratory in the “From Biomass to Biofuels” display. A hands-on demonstration showed the steps involved in advanced biofuels production, from biomass improvement and deconstruction to microbial engineering. These micro-scale engineering techniques served as an example of a technology that has been successfully used by the national laboratories to increase throughput and accuracy, whilst reducing cost in bioenergy research.

Bill Collins co-led the development of the Science and Environment exhibits with PNNL and LANL, which featured two DOE initiatives: the DOE ARM Climate Research Facility and the Accelerated Climate Model for Energy (ACME).  Collins, who has participated in previous National Lab Days, also served as the host for the Science and Environment theme.
Berkeley Lab Director Mike Witherell also attended and browsed the displays, as did former Director Paul Alivisatos, who was one of three invited participants in the discussion with Moniz.

Other lab staff who contributed are Branden Brough, Rosie Davis, Steve Kevan, Jenny Mortimer, Theresa Short, Venkat Srinivasan, Diana Swantek, Jenn Tang and Maryann Villavert.

Toward the end of the event, Moniz told the crowd, “I never had this much fun in Congress before.”