NSLS-CFN Users’ Meeting Draws Record Number of Attendees

Workshops on cutting-edge nanotechnology, perspective from a Nobel Laureate, and a sneak peek at the quickly growing National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) ring building attracted a record number of visitors to Brookhaven for the annual meeting of the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) and Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN) user communities.

executive committee members

NSLS and CFN Users’ Executive Committee members with BNL and DOE management

Nearly 500 visiting scientists, staff members, funding representatives, and exhibitors gathered May 23-25 for the joint meeting, which included nine workshops and a plenary session packed with invited talks and updates from the U.S. Department of Energy and Laboratory management.

Doon Gibbs

Brookhaven Lab Deputy Director for Science and Technology Doon Gibbs

“NSLS-II and CFN are key to the Lab’s future as it goes forward,” said BNL Deputy Director of Science and Technology Doon Gibbs during the plenary session.

That sentiment was echoed and expanded by Eric Rohlfing, director of the Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences Division in DOE’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES).

“Our facilities are only as good as the users who use them,” he said, adding that DOE is depending on these visiting scientists to help solve the energy crisis of the nation and the world. Based on projections, Rohlfing said, worldwide energy use will almost double to reach 50 terawatts — 50 trillion watts — by the middle of the 21st century.

Eric Rohlfing

Eric Rohlfing, director of the Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences Division in DOE’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences

To try to meet this demand and decrease carbon emissions, BES has developed a strategy that focuses on advancing seven research areas: renewable energy, carbon sequestration, fuel switching (to biomass or photosynthetic materials, for example), electric energy storage, smart grid and transmission, end-use efficiency, and climate science.

Challenging Years Ahead

After much concern over the FY11 budget, the final numbers in the yearlong continuing resolution — signed in mid-April — weren’t so bad for DOE’s Office of Science, Rohlfing said. The office received about $4.88 billion this year, a “modest” $35-million reduction from FY10. Based on this number, the Office of Science is negotiating the BES budget with Congress. BES is likely to see a slight increase from FY10, Rohlfing said, but it will still lag far behind the office’s original request.

Rohlfing told the audience to prepare for an even tougher “budget battle” next year. BES has requested $1.985 million for FY12, which would include full funding for operating the complex’s user facilities, planned upgrades and construction (including NSLS-II), and investment in the core energy research mentioned earlier.

But Rohlfing warned that based on current budget trends, it’s unrealistic to think that BES will receive the requested level of funding. As evidence of the difficulties ahead, Rohlfing pointed to a recent recommendation from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, that BES should eliminate any programs that fund commercialization — a move that would cut the office’s FY12 budget by $506 million.

“We face very difficult and challenging budget times ahead,” Rohlfing said. “It’s not going to be easy. Bear with us. And keep working. There might be some bad years but you’re going to have some good years too.”

Photon Sciences: Moving at Light Speed

Steve Dierker

Associate Laboratory Director for Photon Sciences Steve Dierker

The last year has been an exciting one for the Photon Sciences Directorate, said Associate Laboratory Director Steve Dierker, from the reorganization of the directorate to a handful of NSLS-II construction milestones.

NSLS continues to serve its nearly 2,200 yearly users very well, Dierker said. Reliability on both the X-Ray and Vacuum Ultraviolet rings is between 95 and 98 percent. As a result, visiting and staff scientists have been able to perform a wide range of high-caliber research. Of the almost 900 publications published in FY10, Dierker said, about 170 were in premier journals.

“There’s no question that research at NSLS continues to be highly productive and have high impact in the fields it’s carried out in,” he said.

Construction of NSLS-II is on track to be finished 15 months ahead of schedule, in March of 2014 instead of the scheduled June 2015 completion date. This will allow NSLS users and new groups of visiting scientists to advance their research earlier than expected. Construction is now about 60 percent complete and within budget, Dierker said. Construction workers “closed” the half-mile ring building with installation of the last steel beam in October, and in March, project staff were given the OK to start installing accelerator components and beamlines in the first completed fifth of the building.

Also in the last year, there was overwhelming response to a call for beamlines to accompany the six project beamlines currently under development, Dierker said. The user community organized 13 workshops, which helped generate 54 proposals from more than 700 team members from around the world. More than half, 34, were approved.

Six beamlines from this batch will be constructed through a project called NSLS-II Experimental Tools (NEXT), which is funded by the Department of Energy. Three beamlines for life sciences will be constructed using funding from the National Institutes of Health. In addition, the National Institute of Standards & Technology will construct two beamlines and the New York Structural Biology Center will build one. Thus, Dierker said he expects that there will be at least 18 beamlines installed and ready for commissioning within the first year of NSLS-II operations. When completely built out, the facility will host more than 60 beamlines.

A Growth Spurt for CFN

Emilio Mendez

CFN Director Emilio Mendez

Since opening its doors to users in 2008, the CFN has seen tremendous growth, said facility Director Emilio Mendez. This spurt is best seen in numbers: during the last three years, the facility’s users have increased from 107 to 281, its scientific staff from 13 to 24, and its yearly publication count from 34 to 79.

That growth isn’t finished. Mendez wants to see about 65 staff members filling the CFN’s labs and offices in the next couple years. But growth always comes with some amount of pain.

“The number of users is growing tremendously and this is great,” Mendez said. “But because of natural limitations on equipment and staff availability, there is a limit on how much we can grow and still do a good job working with our users. The ideal number of users is probably between 300 and 350.”

In the future, competition for time and space will be even larger than it has been and it will force everyone to do an even better job of writing successful proposals, Mendez said.

To handle the influx of users, the CFN is transitioning to an online proposal system with more emphasis on scientific merit. In the long term, the facility hopes to implement online training and webcasting as well as remote operation of instruments, Mendez said.

The CFN also has installed a variety of new equipment recently, including a mask aligner, a reactive ion etcher for metals, a transmission electron microscope for soft materials, a reactor scanning transmission microscope, an analytical scanning electron microscope, and an upgrade of a high-end transmission electron microscope.

Nanotechnology for Energy and Health

Thomas A. Steitz

Keynote speaker and Nobel Laureate Thomas A. Steitz, of Yale University

The theme of this year’s meeting, “Nanotechnology for Energy and Health,” was emphasized through three invited speakers at the plenary session. The keynote speaker was Thomas A. Steitz, a 2009 Nobel Laureate, Sterling Professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale University, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. Starting in the late 1990s, Steitz used x-ray crystallography at NSLS to gather atomic-level structures of a ribosome subunit. That data, along with research at the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, contributed directly to his Nobel Prize in Chemistry, which he shared with Venki Ramakrishnan (Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology and a former BNL employee) and Ada E. Yonath (Weizmann Institute of Science). Steitz discussed how he arrived at this discovery and the importance of NSLS to the work.

The two other plenary speakers were Gayle Woloschak, a professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Northwestern University, and Daniel Hausermann, a principal scientist on the Imaging and Medical Beamline at the Australian Synchrotron. Both speakers discussed how synchrotron light can be used in biomedical applications, ranging from the detection of nanoparticles in mammalian cells (Woloschak) to building a new world-class facility for medical imaging and radiotherapy (Hausermann).

In addition, the following eight workshops were held during the three-day meeting:

Nano-machines in Health and Disease
organized by Francis T. F. Tsai and Sukyeong Lee (Baylor College of Medicine)

Advances in Synchrotron Methods for Catalysis and Surface Science Research
organized by David Starr (CFN-BNL), Dario Stacchiola (Chemistry-BNL), Jurek Sadowski (CFN-BNL), and Sanjaya Senanayake (Chemistry-BNL)

Optical Studies of Solar Nanomaterials: From Single-Molecules to Devices
organized by Mircea Cotlet (CFN-BNL), Mathew Maye, (Syracuse University), Zhihua Xu (CFN-BNL), Matthew Sfeir (CFN-BNL) and Qin Wu (CFN-BNL)

Data Acquisition for Fluorescence Imaging and Spectroscopy
organized by Bruce Ravel (NIST/NSLS) and Ryan Tappero (PS-BNL)

Epitaxial Graphene — From Science to Applications
organized by Peter Sutter (CFN-BNL) and Eli Sutter (CFN-BNL)

X-ray Diffraction and Spectroscopy to Study Dynamic Phenomena under Extremes
organized by Alexander Goncharov (Carnegie Institution of Washington), Vitali Prakapenka (University of Chicago), Lars Ehm (Stony Brook University/BNL)

Introducing Synchrotrons Into the Classroom Workshop
organized by Scott Bronson (OEP-BNL), Antonio Lanzirotti (University of Chicago) and Lisa Miller (PS-BNL)

Interdisciplinary Consortium for Research and Educational Access in Science and Engineering Meeting
organized by Noel Blackburn (OEP-BNL)

The Awards Go To…

Each year, the NSLS Users' Executive Committee (UEC) presents the UEC Community Service Award, which honors hard work and dedication toward bettering the experience of users and the user community. This year's award was given to two NSLS employees: mechanical technicians Shu Cheung and Dennis Carlson. The annual Julian Baumert Ph.D. Thesis Award, given to researchers who have recently conducted a thesis project that included measurements at the NSLS, was given to Andrew Ying, a physics and chemistry teacher at the Hackley School, a private college preparatory school in Tarrytown, NY.

In addition, during the main session, participants attended the annual poster session and vendor exhibition. Hors d'oeuvres were served as attendees mingled and talked, and awards were presented to six students and post-docs: Mengija Gaowei (Stony Brook), Megan Bourassa (Stony Brook), Ishviene Cour (University of Vermont), George Sterbinsky (National Institute of Standards and Technology), Jon Schuller (Columbia University), and Ashleigh Baber (Chemistry-BNL).

A Taste of NSLS-II and Long Island Wine

New to this year’s meeting was a second poster session held on the floor of the NSLS-II ring building. Sponsored by the two UECs and by the Photon Sciences Directorate, the session offered an overview of the capabilities and science that’s anticipated at the new light source through posters of the six project beamlines and the 34 beamline development proposals approved as a result of the 2010 call last year.

Following the plenary session, meeting participants were transformed into wine connoisseurs at a banquet held at Baiting Hollow Farm Winery, on Long Island’s North Fork. The attendees were treated to a wine tasting and a visit with the farm’s rescued horses.

2011-2421  |  INT/EXT  |  Newsroom