SSRL Headline News - Vol. 23, No. 4 Jan-Mar 2023

SSRL Headline News


Message from the Director

SSRL has not been operating during the last several months. An electrical incident occurred in another building on the SLAC site during our winter break that resulted in injury to a staff member involved. A site-wide safety stand down ensued to review and improve operating procedures across the site - with particular emphasis on hazardous energy (CoHE) protocols and lock-out-tag-out (LOTO) restrictions. These restrictions applied to restarting the injector and SPEAR3 for SSRL operations. The situation was further compounded by a SPEAR3 injector transformer failure on January 11 during an atmospheric river and bomb cyclone weather event in California.

New procedures had to be approved by the Department of Energy before any CoHE or LOTO work could be done. Initial approval to work on the transformer has been granted, but there are still uncertainties that may yet affect the timing of the restart. The current estimate for restarting SSRL operations is the end of May. We realize that this unexpected outage has had significant impact on our user community, and we sincerely appreciate your patience. As we begin to plan the June through August beam line schedules, please reach out to the user office ( to alert us if you have urgent needs such as data needed for funding deadlines or students who need to complete their thesis for graduation.

On a happier note, we look forward to welcoming you to SSRL on April 20 to celebrate 50 years of transformative science, and to look ahead to an exciting future full of new discoveries. Join us for a full day of talks and panel discussions looking at the past, present and future of the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL). This is a unique opportunity to acknowledge many individuals who have made SSRL such a vital and impactful facility, and to renew the partnerships among SSRL users and staff that fuel our success. This event is open to the public. Advanced registration is required for in-person attendance – please visit the registration page – and for information on virtual attendance to a live-streamed webinar. The symposium will take place in the Kavli Auditorium with additional capacity in the Redwood Rooms.  

Paul McIntyre

SSRL Science Highlight

Crystallography Confirms De Novo Protein Binding Modes and HotspotsContacts: Chris Garcia (Stanford University) and David Baker (University of Washington)

Designing customized proteins that have particular biological functions is of great interest to scientists working to develop disease therapies and diagnostics. While the functionality of proteins often involves physical shapes fitting together, the chemical qualities of the molecular surfaces make engineering these interactions complicated. The field of protein design has benefitted from a computational software called Rosetta that not only helps design custom proteins but also enables new discoveries in the basic science of protein interactions. A team of researchers from many institutions used crystallography to test the accuracy of novel proteins selected by the Rosetta protein design software.  Read more...

More SSRL-Related Science

Team Designs Molecule to Disrupt SARS-CoV-2 Infection
Excerpt from March 28, 2023 Article in Medical Xpress

A team of scientists led by the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory designed a molecule that disrupts the infection mechanism of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and could be used to develop new treatments for COVID-19 and other viral diseases.

The research, detailed in Nature Communications, turned a previously identified noncovalent inhibitor of PLpro into a covalent one with higher potency. Using mammalian cells, the team showed that the inhibitor molecule limits replication of the original SARS-CoV-2 virus strain as well as the Delta and Omicron variants.

The protein was expressed and purified using the capabilities of the Center for Structural Molecular Biology at the Spallation Neutron Source, or SNS, at ORNL. The bright x-rays generated by the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource, or SSRL, at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory were used to map the molecule and examine the binding process at an atomic level, validating the simulations. The SNS and SSRL are DOE Office of Science user facilities.  Read Xpress and SLAC News articles. 

Citation: B. C. Sanders et al., Nature Communications, 28 March 2023 (

Scientists Find Human Antibodies that can Block Multiple Coronaviruses Including SARS-CoV-2
Excerpt from March 1, 2023 Scripps News & Views Article

A team of scientists from Scripps Research and the University of North Carolina (UNC) has found antibodies in the blood of certain COVID-19 donors that can block infection from a broad set of coronaviruses—specifically, in people who have recovered from the virus and were then vaccinated. They found this includes not only the COVID-19-causing SARS-CoV-2, but also SARS-CoV-1 and MERS-CoV.

The scientists’ detailed study of the antibodies and their virus binding sites, reported in Immunity, could lead to the development of a broad coronavirus vaccine and related antibody therapeutics. Both could be used against future coronavirus pandemics as well as any future variants of SARS-CoV-2.  Read more...

Citation: P. Zhou et al., Immunity, 14 March 2023 (

SSRL Users' Organization Update

James Evans, Utah State University, has been elected as the new Vice-Chair of the SSRL Users' Executive Committee (UEC).  He, along with the other UEC members, will help organize the next SSRL/LCLS Users' Meeting and Workshops and address other topics in support of SSRL's general user community. The SSRL UEC will meet next on April 6. Please feel free to contact members of the UEC with your ideas and concerns related to beam time at SSRL.  More information is posted on the SSRL Users' Organization site.

Call for SSRL Award Nominations

Encourage your colleagues to reflect on accomplishments over the past year and submit award nominations by the posted deadlines. Recipients of the Spicer and Klein awards will be asked to present their research during the plenary session of the joint SSRL/LCLS Users’ Meeting, which will be held on September 25-29, 2023. Send nomination packages to Cathy Knotts.

William E. and Diane M. Spicer Young Investigator Award – Submit Nominations by July 1:  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 5:  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.

Call for User Publications and Reminder to Acknowledge SSRL and Funding Agencies

Publications are an important metric of productivity.  SSRL provides technical tools for user experiments with the requirement that scientists will report and properly acknowledge use of our facility and funding agencies in resulting publications.  Acknowledgement templates are provided on our website. Note that the acknowledgement to the Structural Molecular Biology NIH NIGMS funding is now to a P30 grant award.

To help us keep an up-to-date publications list please take a few minutes to use our publications database search and submit form to see if your most recent SSRL-related publications are included and add any that are missing.


SSRL 50th Anniversary Celebration, SLAC, April 20, 2023, Menlo Park, CA
Join us in celebrating SSRL’s 50th anniversary in this one-day symposium on Thursday, April 20. Registration is required.

Image Processing Workshop for Cryo-Electron Microscopy, Stanford-SLAC Cryo-EM Center (S2C2), May 1719, 2023, Menlo Park, CA
This workshop will provide theory and practices on how to apply various software packages at different stages of the image processing pipeline (like Relion, Xmipp, CryoSPARC, among others) for single particle analysis (SPA) using the software integration framework Scipion. Attendees are expected to be familiar with standard image processing pipelines in SPA. Register by April 10 for consideration for in-person participation (limited to 50 spots) and by May 5 for virtual attendance. Workshop website

SSRL/LCLS Users' Meeting, SLAC, September 2329, 2023, Menlo Park, CA — Save the Date
Our Annual Users' Meeting is a unique opportunity to gather together the light source community in a scientific event that includes numerous workshops, plenary presentations and poster sessions. An in-person event is planned this year.  Participants can learn about current/future facility capabilities and the latest user research and discuss science with colleagues from academia, research laboratories, and industry worldwide.  


Postdoctoral Opportunities at SSRL

SSRL scientists are looking for postdoctoral candidates for the positions listed at Careers at SLAC.

User Research Administration

Proposal Deadlines

  • Xray / VUV - May 1, 2023 (for beam time eligibility beginning in October 2023)
  • Macromolecular Crystallography - July 1, 2023 (for beam time eligibility beginning in fall 2023)
  • CryoEM biology-related proposals for the S2C2 program are due on the first day of each month and are being reviewed on a monthly basis.
  • April 21, 2023 is the next application deadline for cryoET sample preparation at the Stanford-SLAC CryoET Specimen Preparation Center (SCSC). Application is through a unified process for the four centers comprising the National Network for Cryo-Electron Tomography. The application can be found at

Submit beam time requests and proposals through the User Portal.

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