SSRL Headline News - Vol. 24, No. 3 April 2024


From the Director

Severe winter weather contributed to loss of electrical power to SSRL/SPEAR3 on several occasions during our current FY 2024 run.  In mid-January, storm-related water intrusion into the housing of a large power transformer feeding the SPEAR3 booster complex catalyzed a multi-step failure of the transformer. In early February, severe winds during another atmospheric river storm caused the downing of many trees, including one that caused the loss of power to the SLAC site’s main 230 kV electrical line.  In early March, a brief but intense storm produced a power instability on the 230 kV line that caused our local power utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, to de-energize the line. 

There was no permanent damage to SSRL systems during these events, but they, unfortunately, resulted in lost beam time to our users.  These events point out the need for us to invest in back-up systems and hardening of the facility to mitigate what are likely to be increasingly frequent severe weather events in future years.  We received funds at the end of FY 2023 from the Department of Energy Basic Energy Sciences to order replacements of key power transformers around SSRL.  These have been ordered and will be installed.  The recent increase in SSRL’s operating funds provides much-needed resources for maintenance and risk mitigation which we will use over the coming years to improve SSRL’s operational resilience.

Earlier this year, we reorganized the SSRL leadership team. Xiaobiao Huang now leads the Accelerator Division. James Safranek, who had previously led the Division, now leads the Accelerator Physics Department. Dan Harrington leads the Beam Line Systems Division as well as the Beam Line Development and Support Department. This change allows Tom Rabedeau to focus on SSRL’s future project portfolio, including plans for Major Item of Equipment project for new beam lines at SSRL.

– Paul McIntyre

SSRL SPEAR3 Celebrates 20 Years

SSRL utilizes x-rays produced by its accelerator, the Stanford Positron Electron Asymmetric Ring (SPEAR). This month we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the 2004 upgrade funded by the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health. SPEAR3 is a 3-GeV, high-brightness third generation storage ring operating with low emittance. SSRL runs with 500 mA in top-off mode, with the beam current kept constant by injection of electrons into the ring every five minutes. The intense beam of synchrotron radiation – ultraviolet and x-ray photons emitted by the circulating electron beams – are used for basic and applied research in diverse fields. SSRL celebrated with a lunch where Paul McIntyre acknowledged the milestone and Bob Hettel who was part of the original SPEAR3 team shared some memories of the people who made the upgrade possible.

SSRL Science Highlights

Nanoscale Chemical Imaging with Structured X-ray Illumination – Contact: Yijin Liu (The University of Texas at Austin) 

High-resolution x-ray imaging can reveal chemical details in a number of fields including detection of metal contaminations in Si wafers; electrode dissolution and precipitation in lithium-ion batteries; and metal poisoning in catalytic materials for petroleum refinery – among others.  However, using existing methods to balance resolution, sensitivity, and speed simultaneously has been challenging.  A proposed new method integrates a full-field transmission x-ray microscope with an x-ray fluorescence detector to map at nanoscale without resorting to nanoscale x-ray focusing and raster scanning. This technique opens up opportunities across multiple fields by using x-rays to bridge the gap between structural and chemical characterizations.  Read more...

Pinning the Geometrically-frustrated Flat Band to the Fermi Level with Electron CorrelationContacts: Jianwei Huang and Ming Yi (Rice University); Makoto Hashimoto and Donghui Liu (SSRL)

Topological flat bands in quantum materials represent a fascinating subject in condensed matter physics, often associated with numerous exotic phenomena, including superconductivity, magnetism, and charge density wave order. Flat bands are commonly found in quantum materials where the Coulomb interactions are comparable or larger than the electron kinetic energy. Searching for flat bands in real materials and uncovering the related intriguing phenomena as well as the underlying microscopic mechanisms are collectively referred to as flat band physics.  Read more...

Unique Novel Drug Shows Promise Against SARS-CoV-2 Contacts: Long Mao and Can Jin (ACEA Therapeutics, Inc.)

Olgotrelvir (STI-1558) is a novel antiviral drug designed to address the challenges posed by the emergence of new, more infectious and virulent SARS-CoV-2 variants. This drug is particularly important for populations at risk who may not benefit from existing treatments like Paxlovid due to potential drug-drug interactions. Olgotrelvir exhibits strong antiviral activity against the SARS-CoV-2 main protease (Mpro), including its variants which showed resistance to Paxlovid. Furthermore, it inhibits human cathepsin L (CTSL), a host enzyme critical for viral entry through the endosomal pathway, thereby blocking both the entry and replication of the virus. Phase 1 clinical trials have demonstrated that oral administration of Olgotrelvir achieves effective plasma levels with limited mild adverse effects and a promising reduction in viral RNA load.  Read more...

SSRL-Related Science

A Newly Published Protein Structure Helps Explain how Some Anti-cancer Immunotherapy Treatments Work
Excerpt from Stanford News Article by Erin Ross

Some cancerous tumors hijack proteins that act as “brakes” on our immune system and use them to form a sort of shield against immune recognition. Immunotherapy treatments have been created that turn off these “brakes” and allow our body to attack foreign-looking cancer cells. To further advance such treatments, researchers at Stanford University, SSRL and New York University have recently published a new structure of one of these brake proteins, LAG-3 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2310866121. Their work contains key details of the molecule’s structure, as well as information about how the LAG-3 protein functions.

Jack Silberstein, a PhD student in immunology, co-led the work and colleagues, including Daniel Fernandez in Stanford’s Sarafan ChEM-H Macromolecular Structure Knowledge Center and Irimpan Mathews at SSRL began working on LAG-3’s structure in 2019.  The team used SSRL's macromolecular crystallography beamline 12-1 to collect the data that eventually led to determining the structure.  Read more...

Awards and Recognition

Call for SSRL Award Nominations

Please take a few minutes to reflect on accomplishments over the past year and submit award nominations by the posted deadlines. Recipients of the Spicer and SSRL awards will be asked to present their research during the plenary session of the joint SSRL/LCLS Users’ Meeting, which will be held September 23-27, 2024. 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).

SSRL Scientific Development Award – Submit Nominations by August 1: In 2024, SSRL will provide $1,000 for an award to recognize outstanding research accomplishments by new investigators and to promote dissemination of research results based on work performed at SSRL. Nominations for undergraduate or graduate students, or postdoctoral fellows within three years of receiving their Ph.D., can be submitted annually before August 1.

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

To help us keep an up-to-date publications list please 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.

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.


SSRL/LCLS Users' Meeting, September 23-27, 2024 — 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.

Register before May 15 for 18th Ultrafast X-ray Science Summer School (UXSS-2024)

UXSS-2024 will take place at SLAC June 17-10, 2024, and the registration deadline is approaching. Confirmed lecturers include Zhirong Huang, SLAC/ Stanford; Nora Berrah, University of Connecticut; Michael C. Thompson, University of California, Merced; Roseanne Sension, University of Michigan; Ludger Inhester, CFEL; Benjamin Ofori-Okai, SLAC; David Reis, SLAC/Stanford; and several scientists from the LCLS, SLAC.

A limited number of scholarships are available from the Stanford PULSE Institute. In order to compete for scholarships, students and postdocs are encouraged to write A Paragraph to the Chair, as a part of the registration process. The final deadline is May 15, but early submissions are encouraged.  See the UXSS-2024 website for registration and agenda. 


Postdoctoral Opportunities at SSRL

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

Upcoming Change to Training Requirement for SLAC Badge

Course 219R, the ESH Orientation Training Refresher, will be deactivated as the refresher for course 219 in the near future.  At that time Course 219, which includes new and updated content, must be taken on an annual basis to maintain site access.

Annual Waiver Needed for ARCAS Fitness Center at SLAC

To access the Arrillaga Recreation Center at SLAC (ARCAS), a liability waiver must be completed annually and given to the ARCAS front desk while membership services staff are on duty. The fitness center is located on the Eastern part of SLAC along the PEP Ring Road (next to the LCLS Building 901). ARCAS is generally staffed 6 am-7 pm Monday through Friday (depending on staff availability). Once the waiver is completed, staff and users with a valid SLAC ID can access ARCAS 4 am-12 am.

User Research Administration

Proposal Deadlines

  • Xray / VUV - May 1, 2024 (for beam time eligibility beginning in fall 2024)
  • Macromolecular Crystallography - July 1, 2024 (for beam time eligibility beginning in fall 2024)
  • 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..

Submit SSRL and CryoEM time requests and proposals through the User Portal.

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