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SSRL Headlines Vol. 4, No. 4  October, 2003


Contents of this Issue:

  1. Science Highlight — Structural Insight into the Metal Active Site of Methane Monooxygenase - an Enzyme that Converts Methane to Methanol
  2. Annual On-site Review by DOE Office of Science
  3. Visit to SLAC and SSRL by Staff from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)
  4. SPEAR3 Passes Final DOE Construction Review
  5. Record Attendance at 30th Annual SSRL Users' Meeting and Workshops
  6. James Penner-Hahn Receives 2003 Lytle Award
  7. SSRLUO-EC Election Results and Update
  8. JCSG Hits the 100 Solved Structures Mark
  9. User Administration Update

1.  Science Highlight — Structural Insight into the Metal Active Site of Methane Monooxygenase - an Enzyme that Converts Methane to Methanol
      (contact: Timothy Stemmler, Wayne State University)

A team headed by Timothy Stemmler of Wayne State University's School of Medicine and Amy Rosenzweig at Northwestern University, has isolated a new form of a bacterial enzyme that efficiently converts methane to methyl alcohol. This enzyme is isolated from methanotropic bacteria, which are found in soil, landfills, groundwater, seawater, hot springs and even the Antarctic. The bacteria are able to carry out this difficult catalytic conversion under ambient conditions (temperature and pressure) which contrasts with the much more extreme conditions required for the commercial chemical processes used for methanol synthesis. The enzyme, called methane monooxygenase (MMO), has previously been studied primarily in a form that is soluble. The newly characterized form is found in membranes and is known as particulate MMO (pMMO). Stemmler, Rosenzweig and collaborators have recently been able to characterize its active site at SSRL. Using synchrotron based x-ray absorption spectroscopy, they probed the electronic and metrical structure of the active site and reached a surprising conclusion. While copper has long been known to be involved in some manner, an interaction with two or more metals is seen, forming a metal cluster. The team has proposed an active site - long known to contain copper - with two or more metals at its core. The multi-nuclear metal center appears to be surrounded by oxygen and/or nitrogen atoms.

For more information on this work see:
or http://www-ssrl.slac.stanford.edu/research/highlights_archive/pmmo.pdf

2.  Annual On-site Review by DOE Office of Science
       (contact: Keith Hodgson)

Friday, October 24 was the day for the annual on-site review of SLAC by the DOE Office of Science. A review team, headed by Dr. Raymond Orbach (Director of the DOE Office of Science) spent the day at SLAC. An overview and strategic vision of the laboratory and its evolution in science and technological focus was presented by SLAC Director Jonathan Dorfan. A review of the SSRL program followed and for this period, Dr. Patricia Dehmer (DOE Associate Director for BES), Dr. Ari Patrinos (DOE Associate Director for BER) and Dr. Pedro Montano (BES Division of Scientific User Facilities) joined via teleconference. The SSRL discussion focused on scientific opportunities as enabled by new accelerator developments. In the near term, the beginning of operation of SPEAR3 and the ultra short x-ray pulse science program (SPPS) both offer new opportunities for exciting science and new directions of discovery. SPPS lays the groundwork for the LCLS x-ray free electron laser, which is currently in its detailed engineering and design phase. The strategic vision, built upon these new machines and the science they will enable, offers a vision for the synchrotron science program that extends well into the next decade. A discussion of how this expanding x-ray synchrotron program integrates with the other growing initiatives at SLAC like particle astrophysics was held with the DOE review team. At the end of a lively day of science-driven discussions, infrastructure and ES&H issues were also considered.

3.  Visit to SLAC and SSRL by Staff from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)
       (contact: Keith Hodgson)

On October 28, Drs. Kathie Olsen, OSTP Associate Director for Science and Mike Holland, OSTP Senior Policy Analyst, visited SLAC and SSRL. Following an overview of SLAC and its science programs by SLAC Director Jonathan Dorfan, the visitors were taken on a tour that included the synchrotron program as well as several high energy and particle astrophysics experiments. At SSRL, the group had the opportunity to learn about SPPS and LCLS and see a time-lapsed video of the SPEAR3 installation. They viewed the SSRL crystal mounting robot in operation together with the integrated computer-based hardware and software control system that provides the means for high throughput and remote utilization. At the end of the SSRL tour, they had the opportunity to see first hand the new SPEAR3 ring.

4.  SPEAR3 Passes Final DOE Construction Review
       (contacts: Bob Hettel and Tom Elioff)

At the conclusion of the final review of the SPEAR3 Project by the DOE, which included a tour of the ring, the panel unanimously recommended approval of CD4. A formal DOE internal review for project completion (CD4) has been scheduled for November 24. Working with the DOE site office, a checklist has been developed for work remaining to be done prior to official sign off. This work includes completion of some vacuum chamber components, instrumentation and control, and shielding components as well as the delivery and installation of remaining RF system components.

Even as the construction portion of the project winds down, machine turn-on activities are kicking into high-gear. Pump-down of beam line front ends has begun, and pump-down of the storage ring itself will begin in early November. The low conductivity water system will be turned on in mid-November, certification of safety systems and hot tests of the large magnet power supplies will follow, and final alignment will begin. The ring is scheduled to be locked up on Friday, November 21, after which the cavity processing and remaining system tests will take place, and alignment will be completed. Commissioning with first beam from the booster is scheduled to begin on December 10 and will continue over the Winter Holiday with only brief interruptions at Christmas and New Year's Day.

The SPEAR3 project team and many others on the SSRL staff have done an exceptional job of keeping a complex schedule on time without any significant incidents or accidents. A public celebration of the success of the SPEAR3 project and beginning of the new era of 3rd generation synchrotron research is being planned for late January 2004.

5.  Record Attendance at 30th Annual SSRL Users' Meeting and Workshops
       (contact: Cathy Knotts)

Congratulations and many thanks to Benjamin Bostick, Dartmouth, Timothy McPhillips, SSRL, and the SSRL administration staff for organizing an outstanding Users' Meeting! Over 300 people participated in the 30th Annual Users' Meeting, workshops, and social events on October 8-10, 2003. Fittingly, Keith Hodgson's presentation included a brief retrospective of the key individuals and accomplishments over the last 30 years and focused on the exciting new opportunities for the future. SLAC Director Jonathan Dorfan reminded users to acknowledge SSRL, SLAC, and funding agencies in publications related to work done here; asked principal investigators to partner with SSRL/SLAC in getting the word out about important science; and urged everyone to stay at the SLAC Guest House whenever visiting SLAC or Stanford. Pat Dehmer, Associate Director of Science for DOE Basic Energy Sciences, spoke on a number of topics including the budget outlook and future synchrotron-related projects. She also stated that users should be very proud that SSRL will become a 3rd generation light source within the next few months because their outstanding science and support of the facility have played a significant role in making it come to pass.

A session was held to honor Iran Thomas, a long-time Deputy Director in the DOE Office of Basic Energy Sciences who passed away on February 28, 2003. Opening remarks and a perspective were provided by Pat Dehmer and Russ Chianelli, Professor at UTEP and the UTEP faculty leader for the program. A dentist's son, Iran spent the first 20+ years of his life in Mexico dividing his time between the realities of living in a poor neighborhood and the advantages of relative wealth. As a result of living in such different worlds, he recognized the value of education and diversity and became a champion of both. Iran realized that the light sources could be used as a bridge to create opportunities in these areas and the University of Texas El Paso (UTEP) and SSRL Gateway program was begun, under the sponsorship of the DOE Materials Science Program, as one such effort to ensure that the workforce of the future is trained in science and engineering. Three students from UTEP presented short talks on their research which was enabled by this innovative program.

The remaining sessions included a number of scientific talks which were selected to represent interdisciplinary applications of a variety of synchrotron-based techniques of interest to the broad scientific community of synchrotron users. Areas included small angle x-ray scattering, macromolecular crystallography, microspectroscopy and diffraction, and surface spectroscopy.

Over 40 user posters were presented during the poster session on October 9. Five outstanding graduate student posters were awarded prizes. A highlight of the Users' Meeting Banquet (Australian BBQ theme) was the annual Lytle Award (see item 6. below). All in all, it was an exciting climax of 30 years of outstanding innovation and research in synchrotron science and a perspective on how the next 30 will be different, yet equally exciting with SSRL and SLAC continuing to innovate new accelerator-based tools for synchrotron science.

For a complete program (including speaker and poster abstracts) see:

Workshop summaries are being posted to:

6.  James Penner-Hahn Receives 2003 Lytle Award
       (contact: Uwe Bergmann)

The 2003 Farrel Lytle Award for outstanding contributions to synchrotron science involving SSRL was awarded to Professor James Penner-Hahn, University of Michigan, in recognition of his imaginative application of x-ray absorption spectroscopy in all of its variations to a large and diverse collection of important biological and biochemistry problems over the past twenty years. It was noted by many of the people who nominated Jim, that during this same period he has also focused with equal vigor on training the next generation of biophysical x-ray spectroscopists. The award, which includes a certificate and $1,000, was presented by Uwe Bergmann (2003 SSRLUO-EC Chair), with remarks and personal reflections by Keith Hodgson and Britt Hedman. SSRL extends it most sincere congratulations to Jim!

7.  SSRLUO-EC Election Results and Update
       (contact: Benjamin Bostick, Dartmouth College)

The SSRL Users' Organization Executive Committee thanks all of the users who agreed to appear on the ballot in the recent election as well as those who voted. It is a pleasure to announce the following newly elected executive committee members:

  • Joy Andrews, CSU Hayward (Materials/Chemistry)
  • Glenn Waychunas, LBNL (Environmental/Geosciences)
  • Timothy Stemmler, Wayne State University (Structural Molecular Biology)
  • Linda Brinen, UC San Francisco (Macromolecular Crystallography)
  • Lisa Downward, UC Santa Cruz (Graduate Student in Materials/Chemistry)
After every SSRL Annual Users' Meeting, the roles on the SSRLUO-EC shift as the Chair for the previous year (Uwe Bergmann) becomes the Ex-Officio representative, and the Vice-Chair (Ben Bostick) becomes Chair, leaving an opening for a new Vice-Chair to be elected from the membership of the SSLUO-EC. The election results are in and Richard Brennan, Oregon Health & Sciences University, is the new Vice-Chair for 2004. The role of the Vice-Chair includes co-organizing the next annual Users' Meeting as well as participating along with the Chair in meetings with SSRL/SLAC management and DOE, and encouraging further user activism.

Following up on his remarks advocating user activism at the Users' Meeting as well as those of Mike Lubell from the American Physical Society, Ben Bostick opened the first meeting of the 2004 committee on Friday, October 10, by reporting that he had sent email messages to active SSRL users requesting that they visit the SSRLUO website to learn more ways to voice their support for physical sciences, particularly synchrotron facilities. Ben related from his own experience that this activity has a potentially huge impact in raising the visibility and awareness of user science supported by synchrotrons, particularly with representatives in Washington DC who are considering future budgets. see: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~ssrluo/

8.  JCSG Hits the 100 Solved Structures Mark
       (contact: Ashley Deacon)

On October 24, after a monumental couple of weeks, the Joint Center for Structural Genomics (JCSG) team turned around 12 new structures to push itself over the century mark —well ahead of earlier schedules. Crystals have been flowing smoothly from GNF and TSRI (Crystallomics Core) and the Structure Determination Core (at SSRL) and Bioinformatics Core have had their work cut out keeping up with the data analysis flow. The last three structures solved include 1790429 (MAD), TM0208 (MR) and TM1620 (MR). Not content to rest on their laurels, the JCSG team was at the Advanced Photon Source this week, making inroads into the next 100...
see: http://www.jcsg.org/

9.  User Administration Update
       (contacts: Cathy Knotts and Lisa Dunn)

Users still have a little time remaining to meet the November 1, 2003 deadline for new X-ray and VUV proposals. Macromolecular Crystallography proposals are due December 1, 2003. see: http://www-ssrl.slac.stanford.edu/users/user_admin/guide.html

X-ray/VUV requests for beam time on existing proposals during March-April 2004 are due by November 17, 2003. Beam Time Requests for Macromolecular Crystallography beam lines are due January 16, 2004. Please note that these projections are dependent upon completion of upgrade activities and radiation shielding, and that beam stability early in the run will be difficult to predict.


SSRL Headlines is published electronically monthly to inform SSRL users, sponsors and other interested people about happenings at SSRL. SSRL is a national synchrotron user facility operated by Stanford University for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Basic Energy Sciences. Additional support for the structural biology program is provided by the DOE Office of Biological and Environmental Research, the NIH National Center for Research Resources and the NIH Institute for General Medical S ciences. Additional information about SSRL and its operation and schedules is available from the SSRL WWW site.


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Last Updated: 29 OCT 2003
Content Owner: L. Dunn
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