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Vol. 17, No. 11 - June 2017

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Science Highlights


From Community to Molecule - on Track towards a Zika VaccineContacts: Davide Robbiani, Margaret MacDonald, Michel Nussenzweig (The Rockefeller University) and Pamela Bjorkman (California Institute of Technology)

Using data collected at SSRL Beam Line 12-2, a team of scientists have determined the molecular structure formed between the Zika envelope protein and neutralizing human antibodies. The structures provide a detailed picture of how these antibodies interact with Zika, important knowledge to fine-tune vaccine development. Read more...

Citation: Robbiani et al., Cell (2017), doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.04.024


Biogenic Non-crystalline Uranium Identified as the Major Component of Uranium Roll-fronts – Contacts: Amrita Bhattacharyya and Thomas Borch (Colorado State University)

The radioactive element uranium is well-known for its role in nuclear energy. People mine naturally occurring uranium from deep sandstone deposits called roll fronts. Scientists have long thought that abiotic chemical reactions that occur over millions of years resulted in formation of crystalline uranium. An international team of scientists has challenged this basic theory, finding evidence for a different genesis for uranium in roll front deposits.  Read more...

Citation: Bhattacharyya et al., Nat. Commun. (2017), doi: 10.1038/ncomms15538

More SSRL-Related Science

How a Single Chemical Bond Balances Cells Between Life and Death

Excerpt from SLAC News Feature by Amanda Solliday


Slight changes in the machinery of a cell determine whether it lives or begins a natural process known as programmed cell death. In many forms of life—from bacteria to humans—a single chemical bond in a protein called cytochrome c can make this call. As long as the bond is intact, the protein transfers electrons needed to produce energy through respiration. When the bond breaks, the protein switches gear and triggers the breakdown of mitochondria, the structures that power the cell’s activities.

For the first time, scientists have measured exactly how much energy cytochrome c puts into maintaining that bond in a state where it’s strong enough to endure, but easy enough to break when the cell’s life span is ending. They used intense x-rays from both SSRL and the LCLS. The collaboration, led by Edward Solomon, Professor of Chemistry at Stanford University and of Photon Science at SLAC, recently published their results in ScienceRead more...

Citation: Mara et al., Science (2017), doi: 10.1126/science.aam6203

Awards and Honors

2017 Michel Boudart Award for Advances in Catalysis


Professor Bruce Gates of the University of California at Davis is the recipient of the 2017 Michel Boudart Award for Advances in Catalysis. This award is sponsored by the Haldor Topsøe Company and is administered jointly by the North American Catalysis Society and the European Federation of Catalysis Societies. The presentation to Professor Gates was made at the 25th North American Meeting of the Catalysis Society in Denver in early June and will be presented again at the Europacat XIII Meeting in Florence, Italy this August. Professor Gates is a longtime user of SSRL in the area of x-ray absorption spectroscopy as applied to fundamental studies of heterogeneous catalysis.

The Michel Boudart Award recognizes and encourages individual contributions to the elucidation of the mechanism and active sites involved in catalytic phenomena and to the development of new methods or concepts that advance the understanding and the practice of heterogeneous catalysis.   Professor Gates is being recognized for his pioneering contributions to the field of supported molecular catalysis. Read more...

Submit Nominations for Annual SSRL User & Staff Awards

Please take a few minutes to reflect on accomplishments from your group and the overall user community. Recognize outstanding achievements of your colleagues, postdocs, students (or yourself) by submitting nominations for the following awards.

William E. and Diane M. Spicer Young Investigator Award – Submit Nominations by July 5

The $1,000 Spicer Young Investigator Award honors the professional and personal contributions that William E. and Diane M. Spicer made to our community. Submit nomination packages including a letter summarizing the scientific contributions of the candidate as well as their CV and publications (supporting letters also encouraged).

Melvin P. Klein Scientific Development Award – Submit Nominations by August 1

This $1,000 award honoring Mel Klein's many contributions recognizes research accomplishments of undergraduate/graduate students or postdoctoral fellows within three years of receiving their Ph.D. This award provides peer recognition and helps to promote dissemination of results based on work performed at SSRL. The nomination package should include the candidate’s CV, letters of recommendation from the advisor and colleagues, as well as an abstract written by the candidate describing the SSRL related experiments, scientific results, and plans to present the findings.

Farrel W. Lytle Award – Submit Nominations by August 10

The $1,000 Lytle Award was established to promote technical or scientific accomplishments in synchrotron radiation-based science and to foster collaboration and efficient use of beam time at SSRL. SSRL users and staff are eligible to be nominated for the Lytle Award. Letters of nominations should include a summary of the individual's contributions and why they should be recognized through this award. Supporting letters are welcome.

Send nomination packages for these awards to by the above deadlines. These awards will be presented at the SSRL/LCLS Annual Users’ Conference, September 27-29, 2017. The recipients of the Spicer and Klein awards will be asked to give a presentation on his/her research during the plenary session of the Users' Conference on September 28.

SSRL Users' Organization Update

SSRL User Executive Committee (UEC)

Contacts:  Blaine Mooers (UEC Chair), Dave Bushnell (UEC Vice Chair), Eddie Snell (UEC Past Chair)

Many users have expressed concern about proposed budget cuts for science and user facilities. Please contact the SSRL Users Executive Committee (UEC) to learn more or to share your input.

Save the date and plan to attend the next SSRL/LCLS Annual Users' Conference and Workshops which will be held at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory on September 27-29, 2017.

Meeting Summary

SSRL Summer School on Synchrotron X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy and Imaging

The hard x-ray spectroscopy group at SSRL organized a June 19-23, 2017 summer school on synchrotron x-ray absorption spectroscopy and imaging. The first day of the week-long school was devoted to a series of lectures on the theoretical, experimental and practical concepts of spectroscopy and imaging. Leading experts in the field discussed applications of the two techniques in various areas of scientific research covering applications in structural molecular biology, chemical catalysis, environmental and materials science, etc. The second day was devoted to FEFF based XANES analysis and lectures on experimental design. The lectures led way to hands-on training at four experimental beam lines at SSRL, where the participants obtained in-depth instruction on sample preparation, beam line operational protocols and experimental data collection. During the last two days, the participants were trained in experimental data reduction and analysis. Instructions on rational experimental design, beam time proposal writing and methods for result reporting in peer-reviewed journals were provided. The school received overwhelming international interest and was structured to accept maximum capacity (30) attendees at the beam lines and another 25 attendees for the hands-on data analysis session for a total of 55 attendees from nine countries across four continents. The school was supported by DOE-BES, DOE-BER and NIH-NIGMS.

Upcoming Events

7th International Conferences on Hard X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy, September 11-15, 2017, Berkeley, CA

We are looking forward to an exciting week of the latest developments in HAXPES, with plenary and invited speakers, contributed talks to be selected from the abstracts, and two poster sessions.  The conference has also been endorsed by several major organizations and there will be various scientific equipment manufacturers participating.  The deadline for abstract submittal and low-rate registration is fast approaching—July 8.

Register online or contact the Co-Chairs for more information: Piero Pianetta (Stanford/SSRL), Chuck Fadley (UC Davis/LBNL) and Zahid Hussain (LBNL).  Conference website

SSRL/LCLS Users' Conference & Workshops, September 27-29, 2017, Menlo Park, CA

Register to attend the SSRL/LCLS Users’ Conference on September 27-29, 2017 to share results over the last year and learn about new capabilities, technology advances and facility plans.

The activities scheduled over this multi-day event provide many opportunities to interact with colleagues and discuss current/future capabilities and science.  In addition to the plenary session activities on September 28, several parallel workshops are being planned for focused discussions of the latest developments, including:

  • Accelerator Performance Developments
  • Additive Manufacturing
  • Advanced X-ray Spectroscopy at SLAC:  From Theory to Experimental Concepts
  • CDI at LCLS
  • Detectors for Photon Science
  • Feature Extraction for LCLS-II
  • First Experiments for LCLS-II (with Update/Introduction to Instrumentation)
  • Hands-on Data Analysis Workshop for LCLS
  • New Methods for Room Temperature Crystallography at SSRL
  • Probing Structure and Chemistry of Surfaces Using Hard X-ray Methods
  • Scientific Opportunities Using Ultrafast Electron Diffraction (UED)
  • Ultrafast Chemistry and Materials Dynamics
  • Ultrasensitive Electronic Structure Detection in (Bio)Chemistry and Catalysis
  • Workflow Workshop (Including Machine Learning Features)

Plan to present a poster and compete for the Joe Wong Poster Awards. To participate in the Poster Session, register for the Users' Meeting and submit your abstract by September 20 (the conference registration fee is waived for students presenting posters).

We look forward to seeing you at the Annual Users’ Conference

SSRL/LCLS UEC and Joint Users’ Conference Organizing Committee


User Research Administration

SSRL Beam Time Request Deadlines

  • August 7, 2017 – X-ray/VUV requests for beam time beginning fall 2017.
  • September 8, 2017 – Macromolecular Crystallography requests for beam time beginning fall 2017.

SSRL Proposal Deadlines

  • September 1, 2017 – X-ray / VUV
  • December 1, 2017 – Macromolecular Crystallography

Submit proposals and beam time requests through the User Portal.

The Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) is a third-generation light source producing extremely bright x-rays for basic and applied research.  SSRL attracts and supports scientists from around the world who use its state-of-the-art capabilities to make discoveries that benefit society. SSRL, a U.S. DOE Office of Science national user facility, is a Directorate of SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, operated by Stanford University for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science.  The SSRL Structural Molecular Biology Program is supported by the DOE Office of Biological and Environmental Research, and by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of General Medical Sciences. For more information about SSRL science, operations and schedules, visit

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Questions? Comments? Contact Lisa Dunn