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Researchers in the Biology Department at Brookhaven National Laboratory seek to unravel and fully describe the complexities of biological systems—from how plants make oils and other products to the role of proteins in disease. Our work helps to develop and makes use of the tools and techniques of biochemisty, molecular genetics, and structural biology.  We also leverage the unique capabilities of Brookhaven’s National Synchrotron Light Source-II and Center for Functional Nanomaterials, major research facilities open to scientists from around the world. Our research makes important contributions to fulfilling the missions of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences and Office of Biological and Environmental Research.   In addition, together with the Collider-Accelerator Department, the Biology Department manages the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory (NSRL) at Brookhaven, which is used by radiobiologists and physicists to study the effects of space radiation on both living and non-living systems with the aim of protecting future astronauts.

Plant Sciences

Crop plants, rich in carbon, constitute a major renewable source of food, fuel, and other products to fulfill the needs of society.  Finding ways to increase the yield and diversity of products produced by plants could help meet the needs of an expanding world population.  A major focus of the Biology Department is therefore to understand the biochemical principles underlying the capture, conversion, and storage of carbon in plant biomass, and develop the capability to model, predict, and optimize these processes.  A second approach, based on genomic science, seeks to fill the knowledge gap that exists between plant genes and their function. Understanding the links between specific genes and their functions can be used as a starting point for predictive modeling of plant biology.  This goal requires learning the functions of approximately half of the genes shared by all plants. Right now, the functions of the proteins coded for by these genes are unknown or poorly understood.  To fill in this essential knowledge quickly and efficiently, we are developing a high-throughput discovery pipeline—a unique capability for rapidly sampling and discovering the functions of these unknown genes exploiting a rapidly growing photosynthetic microorganism within the green plant lineage.  These efforts will contribute to the Grand Challenge of “Enabling Predictive Biology.”

NASA Space Radiation Laboratory Support Group

The Biology Department provides experimental, logistical and technical support at the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory and the Tandem Van de Graaff accelerator?. These facilities are among the few in the world that can simulate the harsh cosmic and solar radiation environment found in space using energetic particle beams. Studying how these particles interact with cells, DNA, and shielding materials will help scientists characterize the risks future astronauts may face on long term space missions, and design and test protective strategies. These facilities also give scientists a way to explore promising new avenues for cancer and disease treatments.

Radiochemistry and Biological Imaging

Develops methodologies to help achieve our nation’s goal of increased use of renewable energy. The program is structured into four R&D areas including radiotracer chemistry, imaging instrumentation, radiotracer methodology and biological applications with a major focus on the whole plant and bioenergy grasses.

The Biology Department is part of the Environment, Biology, Nuclear Science & Nonproliferation Directorate at Brookhaven National Laboratory.