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SSRL Headlines Vol. 3, No. 1  July, 2002


Contents of This Issue:

  1. Science Highlight - Plants with the Midas Touch: Formation of Gold Nanoparticles by Alfalfa Plants
  2. SPEAR3 Technical Progress on Track
  3. Summer Shutdown Projects
  4. Help Yourselves to Some Limelight
  5. 2002 Stanford-Berkeley Synchrotron Summer Schools a Success
  6. SSRL29 is Fast Approaching
  7. 2002 SPEAR Run Ends Very Successfully
  8. CANDLE Representative Visits SSRL
  9. Upcoming Events at SSRL and Elsewhere
  10. User Research Administration Announcements
  11. SMB Staff Scientist Position in Macromolecular Crystallography

1.  Science Highlight - Plants with the Midas Touch: Formation of Gold Nanoparticles by Alfalfa Plants
    (contact: Jorge Gardea-Torresdey, jgardea@utep.edu)

As the legend goes, King Midas could convert anything he touched to gold. In 2002 we have a case of alfalfa turning into gold by using, as tiny factories, the alfalfa's physiological need to extract metals from the soil in which they are growing. In recent studies conducted at SSRL, Professor Jorge Gardea-Torresdey and his team from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) have shown that ordinary alfalfa plants can accumulate very small particles (nanoparticles) of metallic gold. Alfalfa extracts gold it finds in the soil and stores it as specks of gold less than a billionth of an inch across. In addition, using plants to produce nanoparticles of gold could provide a significant environmental advantage over current methods and could eliminate the need for harsh chemicals or chemical reducing agents.

The oxidation resistance and thermal and electrical conductivity of gold have long made it important to the semiconductor industry. Now, the drive toward ever-smaller wires and connectors on ever-smaller semiconductor devices makes those properties even more important. Consequently, the nanotechnology industry is very interested in processes that make gold nanoparticles for nano-scale electronic and optical devices.

This work by Profesor Gardea-Torresday and his collaborators builds on the natural ability of plants to use their roots to extract nutrients - water and minerals, even heavy metals-from the soil in which they grow. In this case, alfalfa was chosen as a model plant system for studying the ability of plants to extract gold from various growth media. The alfalfa plants were germinated and grown on an artificial, gold-rich, growing media and the samples were analyzed using X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) on SSRL's Beam Line 7-3 and at UTEP using high resolution transmission electron microscopy. These studies indicate that using alfalfa may be a cost effective and environmentally friendly method of producing gold nanoparticles. Future work will involve the full physical characterization of the nanoparticles and the development of methods to extract them from the plants.

More information regarding this research, enabled at SSRL under the SSRL-UTEP Gateway Program funded by DOE-BES, can be found on the SSRL home page at http://www-ssrl.slac.stanford.edu and clicking on the picture under "Current Topics".

2.   SPEAR3 Technical Progress on Track
     (contact: Tom Elioff, telioff@slac.stanford.edu)

On July 16-18, 2002, the DOE Office of Science conducted its annual "Lehman" review of the SPEAR3 upgrade project. The purpose of the review was to evaluate progress in all technical areas; however, the review committee was also directed to focus special attention to the 6-month installation plan, ES&H aspects, and the upcoming pre-operation and commissioning plans.

The SPEAR3 team reported that the goals for shielding modifications in FY2000 and FY2001 were achieved. These modifications are required in order to safely provide SPEAR3 beam currents up to 500 mA. Work in the currently ongoing FY2002 shutdown includes completion of shielding modifications in the East straight section, new AC power and lighting for the tunnel, new smoke detector system and a new klystron building enclosure.

For technical systems, all 292 new magnets were received on schedule via a very successful collaboration with IHEP in Beijing. All magnets meet or exceeded required technical specifications. All associated power supplies (200 units) are either complete or on order with all deliveries by December 2002. The vacuum system components are extremely complex; however, prototypes of the major arc chambers have been completed together with 40% of the production units. Full scale production is now underway. Earlier problems with the production of the RF cavities have been solved and delivery of 4 cavities is expected on or before February 2003.

Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of SPEAR3 is the installation program which involves the dismantling of SPEAR2, construction of a new reinforced concrete tunnel floor, and the installation of all new SPEAR3 technical components---all to be accomplished within a six-month period. The review committee recognized that "a very thorough and comprehensive installation plan is in place with an aggressive schedule" and recommended "further optimization with resource leveling."

In summary, the overall production of SPEAR3 technical systems is 75% complete with full completion scheduled before April 2003. The detailed installation plan for the period April through September 2003 is being further optimized and finalized. The time is rapidly approaching when the SSRL users will begin to benefit from this major upgrade that has been jointly funded by DOE and NIH.

3.   Summer Shutdown Projects
     (contact: Piero Pianetta, pianetta@slac.stanford.edu)

As soon as the beam went down on July 8, SSRL staff was opening up the SPEAR tunnel to get ready for another shutdown with an ambitious set of projects. In addition to the East Pit shielding work described in the SPEAR3 section of this Newsletter, the shielding around Beam Line 5 will be replaced to allow for the installation of a new SPEAR3 compatible spherical grating monochromator as well as increase the shielding height for the future installation of the new BL4 wiggler. The Bldg. 120 control room has been dismantled to make room for the new SPEAR3 synchrotron light monitor. This location will make the synchrotron light monitor more accessible and increase the stability of the measurements as compared to the current system located on top of SPEAR. The control room is being relocated to the BL1-2 mezzanine with a brand new control system for BL's 1 and 2. The BL1-2 TGM which was decommissioned early this year has been removed. Bldg. 130, the most recent addition to Bldg. 131, is being made available for storage of SPEAR3 accelerator and beam line components which will start appearing in quantity by the fall.

4.  Help Yourselves to Some Limelight
     (contact: Neil Calder, neil.calder@slac.stanford.edu)

SLAC has a new Office of Communication headed by Neil Calder, a 21-year veteran of communications in science and high energy physics. Noted Neil, "The core purpose of this new SLAC Office is to raise the profile of interesting, ready-for-publication work done at SLAC and at SSRL. To that end, the SLAC Office of Communication wants to hear about your research. We are eager to bring your work to the attention of national and international publications and, in many cases, because we now have a dedicated science writer on staff, we will be able to write about you ourselves."

That science writer is Tom Mead. Tom communicates complex science concepts and developments in the form of articles to both general and specialized audiences. He writes at all points along the continuum, from the densely technical science-journal level (he is working with SLAC staff on an article for the CERN Courier) to the wide-eyed kid level (he is trying to interest My Weekly Reader in an article about ball lightening).

"I work with staff and researchers to translate the complexities of their work into journalistic prose for the enormous, intelligent, but non-scientific audience out there." Tom also offers editorial help to researchers preparing articles and papers intended for publication in the scholarly press.

Neil concludes, "The research at SSRL often has more direct relevance to the general public than does the more esoteric particle physics. The new Communications Office would very much like to take advantage of this and produce a stream of articles based on the fascinating research being carried out at SSRL."

The highly dynamic nature of the research team rotation in SSRL means the Office of Communication needs your active help in being made aware of article possibilities. Therefore, principal investigators research team leaders are strongly encouraged take the initiative by contacting SSRL User Administrator Cathy Knotts at knotts@ssrl.slac.stanford.edu or at 650-926-3191 and communicate that they have exciting results about to be published that they would be willing to have communicated to a wider non- scientific audience. Cathy will work with the Office of Communication to develop the story, ensure that the authors have the opportunity to review and comment on the drafts and also have the opportunity to work with their local public relations offices should they desire.

5.   2002 Stanford-Berkeley Synchrotron Summer Schools a Success
     (contacts: Peter Kuhn, pkuhn@stanford.edu;
      Anders Nilsson, nilsson@ssrl.slac.stanford.edu )

The Stanford-Berkeley Summer Schools are jointly organized by Stanford University, UC Berkeley, LBNL-ALS and SLAC-SSRL to provide lecture programs on synchrotron radiation and its broad range of scientific applications in the Physical and Life Sciences. The goal of the school is to disseminate information about scientific opportunities in synchrotron radiation applications and train students on experimental techniques. It provides an interdisciplinary and intellectually stimulating environment for new and experienced researchers. Interaction between lecturers and students is facilitated through dedicated problem solving sessions and round table discussions.

Held in July at the Elliot Program Center on the Stanford Campus, the 2002 Summer Schools attracted 68 students from various parts of the world including the US, Canada, Japan, Sweden, Singapore, Taiwan and Spain. This year's program in the Life Sciences focused on structure determination methods in macromolecular crystallography from crystal screening to structure interpretation with special emphasis on computational methods. The Physical Sciences program provided a comprehensive overview of the synchrotron radiation process and its applications related to spectroscopy and diffraction. Particular emphasis was given to examples from physics, chemistry, and material science. In addition to the lecture and discussion sessions, a full-day tour of the ALS was organized on Thursday, July 11 for the physical sciences participants to take part in different experiments on various beam lines. The following morning all 68 participants were shuttled to the SLAC site for a brief tour of the SSRL experimental floor.

A satellite workshop on "Integrated Software for Structural Genomics and High-Throughput Structural Biology" was held on Tuesday and Wednesday evening for life sciences participants. The workshop included presentations and discussions concerning crystallographic software automation, beam line automation, and related software development issues.

Funding for this year's Summer Schools was provided by the NIH NCRR BTP, SSRL, LBNL, and corporate sponsorship by Celera, Chiron, ADSC, Syrrx, Structural GenomiX, and Gammadata Scienta. All other expenses were covered by student registration fees.

Details of the life sciences and physical sciences programs can be found on the web at http://smb.slac.stanford.edu/SR-School/ls2002prog.html and http://smb.slac.stanford.edu/SR-School/ps2002prog.html, respectively.

6.   SSRL29 is Fast Approaching!
     (contact: Cathy Knotts, knotts@ssrl.slac.stanford.edu)

On October 7-9, 2002, the 29th Annual SSRL Users' Meeting (SSRL29) and workshops will be held at SLAC/SSRL. This meeting provides a forum for the presentation and discussion of research activities from SSRL users and the general synchrotron community. User research from SPEAR2 as well as discussions of new capabilities with SPEAR3 will be shared through invited talks and poster presentations. Dr. Jerry Hastings will give the keynote address "Brighter is Better: SPEAR3 and a Tribute to Ken Green". Users can register and submit abstracts via the meeting website at:

The deadline for abstracts for oral presentation is August 19 and September 23 for poster presentation. The poster session will be held the afternoon of Monday, October 7, and will include the student poster competition, with prizes to be awarded at the dinner later that evening.

Call for 5th Annual Lytle Award Nominations - Due September 9

Users are encouraged to submit nominations for the 2002 Farrel W. Lytle Award, which consists of a plaque that is displayed in the URA Office at SSRL and $1000 to the recipient. All SSRL users and staff are eligible for this award.

The Lytle Award was established by the SSRL Users' Organization Executive Committee to promote important technical or scientific accomplishments in synchrotron radiation-based science and to foster collaboration and efficient use of beam time among users and staff at SSRL. Please forward nominations summarizing the individual's contributions to Cathy Knotts via e-mail or by hardcopy to 2575 Sand Hill Rd, SSRL MS 99, Menlo Park, CA 94025, Fax 650-926-3600. Nominations will be reviewed and the recipient selected by the SSRLUO-EC, with the award to be presented during the Users' Meeting dinner. For additional information see:

7.  2002 SPEAR Run Ends Very Successfully
     (contact: Cathy Knotts, knotts@ssrl.slac.stanford.edu)

The SPEAR delivery average for scheduled beam time over the course of the entire SSRL FY2002 experimental run was a highly respectable 95%. Many benchmark numbers for the FY2002 run exceeded those from the previous years. There were 1023 unique users who physically came to SSRL at least once (and many multiple times) to conduct experiments in FY2002 as compared to 907 in FY2001. Additionally, the number of scientists and collaborators on proposals receiving beam, regardless of whether they visited the site or not, increased from 1711 in FY2001 to 1767 in FY2002. Most notably, the number of experimental starts for unique experiments was up from 775 in FY2001 to 1011 in FY2002. These increases can, in large part, be attributed to more user experiments on BLs 11-1 and 11-2 as those beam lines became fully operational over the past year. Happily, the numbers also help support the belief that if you build a beam line and support it well, the users will indeed come, and come...

8.  CANDLE Representative Visits SSRL
     (contact: Herman Winick, winick@ssrl.slac.stanford.edu)

Alexander Abashian, Director of CANDLE (Center for the Advancement of Natural Discoveries using Light Emission), visited SSRL on July 25-26. CANDLE, the proposed 3 GeV synchrotron light source in Armenia would come online in 2007. CANDLE would be the first of today's third generation synchrotrons in the former Soviet Union and would provide numerous opportunities for the scientific community in that region. During his visit, Abashian met with members of the staff to learn more about SSRL operations, user administration and SPEAR3.

9.  Upcoming Events at SSRL and Elsewhere

10.   User Research Administration Announcements
       (contact: Cathy Knotts, knotts@ssrl.slac.stanford.edu
        Lisa Dunn, lisa@ssrl.slac.stanford.edu)

Beam Time Requests - A call for X-Ray/VUV beam time requests for the first scheduling period of the FY03 SSRL experimental run, November 11, 2002 - January 27, 2003, has been distributed to spokespersons with active proposals. These beam time requests must be returned by Friday, September 6, 2002. This late submittal date was set to accommodate spokespersons who submitted proposals for the May 1 deadline and are awaiting their ratings from the Proposal Review Panel (the PRP will meet on August 26, so that completed ratings should be distributed to spokespersons in early September). Beam time requests can be submitted by fax at 650-926-3600 or electronically via our website:

Requests for beam time on macromolecular crystallography beam lines will also be due on September 6. Spokespersons with proposals eligible for beam time can expect to receive an email message in mid August inviting them to submit a request.

The FY2003 SPEAR Operating Schedule which outlines shutdown periods and dates set aside for maintenance and accelerator physics is available on our website at:

11.   SMB Staff Scientist Position in Macromolecular Crystallography
       (contact: Peter Kuhn, pkuhn@stanford.edu)

The Structural Molecular Biology (SMB) group at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL), Stanford University, is seeking a Ph.D. staff scientist with research interest and experience in macromolecular crystallography. She/he will develop a research program aimed at innovative and novel approaches to structural biology, with emphasis on experimental and computational methods used in structure determination and analysis. She/he will also participate in the development and improvement of the SSRL beam lines for macromolecular crystallography, including the implementation of new experimental techniques, instrumentation, and software for data collection and structure determination. The successful candidate will work as a member of the SMB team, whose focus is to support scientific user groups at all stages of their synchrotron experiments. She/he will be supported by a strong group that has extensive experience in the use of macromolecular crystallographic methods, the development of advanced data collection environments, the design of beam line software and hardware and the management of state-of-the-art computer hardware systems.

The candidate must have a Ph.D. in structural biology or a related field. A strong background in macromolecular crystallography is required. She/he must have competence and experience in structure determination using modern phasing methods. Extensive experience with synchrotron radiation or experimental equipment is highly desirable. She/he must have demonstrated ability to work within a team environment and must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills. Stanford University is committed to equal opportunity through affirmative action in employment and we are especially eager to identify minority candidates and women with appropriate qualifications. For additional information please see http://smb.slac.stanford.edu or contact Professor Peter Kuhn at pkuhn@stanford.edu.

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: http://www-ssrl.slac.stanford.edu/

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Last Updated: 30 JULY 2002
Content Owner: L. Dunn
Page Editor: L. Dunn