SSRL Headline News - Vol. 20, No. 8 - June 2020

SSRL Headline News


From the Director

The process of recovering operations at SLAC is moving ahead gradually and carefully.  This process is undertaken with significant input from DOE via the Bay Area Site Office. SSRL is now operating 10 beam lines for specific experiments, as well as several cryo-electron microscopes in buildings 006 and 057. Our limited operations are being conducted with great attention to the need for face coverings, physical distancing, and provision of PPE and clean-as-you-go supplies.  Safety signs, including path-of-travel indicators, are going up on the SSRL experimental floor and in our other buildings in preparation for expansion of our activities.

Our shortened SPEAR3 summer downtime is scheduled to begin on July 13 and to end in early September. The summer downtime was rescheduled because the other DOE synchrotrons are scheduled to be down in September.  This timing ensures at least one synchrotron in the US is available continuously to support research.  On coming back up, we plan to initially operate in a mode in which x-ray experiments are performed solely by our beam line staff.  Significant effort is being devoted to building an effective sample mail-in program with remote access for most of our beam lines.  We will aim to gradually introduce local (Northern California) users to the SSRL experimental floor as we approach the end of 2020.

It is my great privilege to serve as director of SSRL.  SSRL is committed to perform, enable and support scientific research of foremost importance and impact - and owes its enduring success to the quality and strong efforts of our staff.  The current circumstances are difficult, but we must move forward with a focus on safe and sustainable operations of the synchrotron lightsource, the cryo-EM facilities and our laboratory-based projects.

Science Highlight

Cross-β Structure - a Core Building Block for Streptococcus mutans Functional AmyloidsContacts:  Jeannine Brady, University of Florida and Gerald Stubbs, Vanderbilt University

Amyloid, composed largely of mis-folded proteins that form insoluble fibrillar aggregates, is important to many human diseases including Alzheimer’s. Tooth decay also features amyloid-forming proteins, but in this case it is not mis-folded human amyloid proteins but bacterial proteins that are not mis-folded when they aggregate into functional amyloid polymers. The most common infectious disease in humans, tooth decay, involves the formation of microbial communities in biofilms on teeth.  Read more...

More SSRL-Related Science

Scientists Home in on Pairs of Atoms that Boost a Catalyst’s Activity

Excerpt from SLAC News Article by Glennda Chui

Replacing the expensive metals that break down exhaust gases in catalytic converters with cheaper, more effective materials is a top priority for scientists, for both economic and environmental reasons. To improve them, researchers need a deeper understanding of exactly how they catalysts work.

A team of scientists has identified exactly which pairs of atoms in a nanoparticle of palladium and platinum – a combination commonly used in converters ­– are the most active in breaking those gases down.  Read more...


DOE Early Career Awards

Excerpt from SLAC News Article by Glennda Chui

Amy Cordones-Hahn is one of the 76 recipients selected from a large pool of university and national laboratory applicants to receive the Department of Energy’s prestigious Early Career Research Program award.

Cordones-Hahn, an investigator with the Stanford PULSE Institute (an SSRL user and a member of the SSRL Users Organization Executive Committee), will use x-rays to understand how electrons move around in a molecule as it catalyzes a light-triggered chemical reaction – work that could eventually lead to better systems for producing fuel from sunlight.

The award of at least $500,000 per year for five years will allow her to establish a research group to make these fundamental observations at SSRL and LCLS.  Read more...

ACA David G. Rognlie Award 2020: James M. Holton

James Holton, a Full Adjunct Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco, a Scientist in the Molecular Biophysics and Bioimaging division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories (LBNL), and an affiliated Staff Scientist in the Structural Molecular Biology division at SSRL, is the 2020 recipient of the American Crystallographic Association’s David J. Rognlie Award. This prestigious award recognizes “an exceptional discovery of technical development of particularly high impact in structural science.”  Read more...

Call for SSRL Award Nominations

Recognize outstanding achievements of your colleagues, postdocs, students (or yourself) by submitting nominations for the following awards by the posted deadlines. Send nomination packages for these awards to Cathy Knotts.

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

Farrel W. Lytle Award – Submit Nominations by AUGUST 5

These awards will be presented at the SSRL/LCLS Annual Users’ Meeting and Workshops.  Users' Meeting website


  • ACA 2020 Workshop: Fundamentals of Single Particle Cryo-EM, August 11 & 12, 2020 (online) workshops 
  • SSRL EXAFS Summer School, Save the dates: August 24–27, 2020 (TBD)
  • SSRL/LCLS Users' Meeting and Workshops, Sep 28–Oct 9, 2020 (online)
    • Mark your calendar and plan to attend the SSRL/LCLS Annual Users’ Meeting and Workshops, a virtual meeting held the mornings of September 28 through October 9, 2020. The meeting will include facility updates, a DOE BES update, invited talks, and several focused workshops. website

User Research Administration

Proposal Deadlines

  • August 1, 2020 – Xray/VUV

Submit beam time requests and proposals through the User Portal.  Questions can be directed to the SSRL User Office or the CryoEM User Office

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