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Vol. 17, No. 2 - August 2016

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Science Highlights


Structure of the Cell’s DNA GatekeeperContact: André Hoelz (California Institute of Technology)

The nucleus, which contains the DNA in eukaryotic cells, has pores in the surrounding double membrane that actively transport biologically important molecules in and out. Controlling these processes is done by a macromolecular protein machine called the nuclear pore complex (NPC). The human NPC is very large, composed of around 1000 proteins of 34 different types, which assemble into a structure with eight-fold symmetry. Because of the important role the NPC plays in our cells and its role in various diseases, such as viral infections, cancers, and neurodegenerative diseases, researchers would benefit from a high-resolution structure of the NPC that reveals the ordering of all of its ~10 million atoms. A team of scientists has accomplished exactly this.  Read more...


A Comprehensive Study of a Rare-earth Ferromagnet/Transition Metal Ferromagnet Interface Using X-ray Magnetic Circular Dichroism   – Contacts: Hendrik Ohldag (SSRL) and Jason Robinson (University of Cambridge)

Giant magnetic resistance (GMR) is a quantum mechanical phenomenon observed in thin structures made of alternating metal layers having differing ferromagnetic properties. When the adjacent ferromagnetic layers of these multilayer materials are magnetized in parallel, there is little electrical resistance, but when magnetization is antiparallel, there is higher resistance. This property allows these materials to be used as magnetic sensors, and thin-film magnetic multilayers have been a popular topic of research. A team of researchers has tested the atomic properties of a variety of nickel and gadolinium (Ni/Gd/Ni) thin-film multilayers.  Read more...

More SSRL Science

X-ray Research on Short-lived Isotope Provides New Possibilities for Cancer Treatment – Scientists Improve Understanding of Mysterious Actinium

Excerpted from August 22, 2016 SLAC News Feature

A recent paper published in Nature Communications reveals insights about the element actinium that could support new classes of anticancer drugs. A team of researchers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory has conducted x-ray absorption fine structure experiments on SSRL's Beam Line 11-2 to characterize the molecular and electronic structure, including chemical bonds in actinium compounds.

Using synchrotron-based tools to obtain a better understanding of the structure of Actinium-225, for example, looks promising.  It has a relatively short half-life (10 days) and emits powerful alpha particles as it decays to stable bismuth. This makes it a perfect candidate for a novel cancer treatment technique called targeted-alpha therapy, where alpha emissions from radioisotopes destroy malignant cells while minimizing the damage to healthy surrounding tissue.  Read more...

See also: Inorganic Chemistry: Fleeting Glimpse of an Elusive Element

A Virtual Flight through a Catalyst Particle Finds Evidence of Poisoning – Two X-ray Techniques Give a 3-D View of Why Catalysts Used in Gasoline Production Go Bad

Excerpted from August 31, 2016 SLAC News Feature

Merging two powerful 3-D x-ray techniques, a team of researchers from SSRL and Utrecht University in the Netherlands revealed new details of a process known as metal poisoning that clogs the pores of catalyst particles used in gasoline production, causing them to lose effectiveness. The results were published on August 30 in Nature Communications.

The particles, known as fluid catalytic cracking or FCC particles, are used in oil refineries to “crack” large molecules that are left after distillation of crude oil into smaller molecules, such as gasoline. Those oil molecules flow through the catalyst particles in tiny pores and passageways, which ensure accessibility to the active domains where chemical reactions can take place. But while the catalyst material is not consumed in the reaction and in theory could be recycled indefinitely, the pores clog up and the particles slowly lose effectiveness. Worldwide, about 400 reactor systems refine oil into gasoline, accounting for about 40 to 50 percent of today’s gasoline production, and each system requires 10 to 40 tons of fresh FCC catalysts daily.  Read more...


Yijin Liu Receives 2016 Spicer Award For Substantial Research Contributions Using X-ray Microscopy

Excerpted from August 31, 2016 SLAC News Feature


Yijin Liu is the winner of SSRL's 2016 William E. and Diane M. Spicer Young Investigator Award. The award is given each year to early-career x-ray scientists who perform research at SSRL.  Liu’s research involving x-ray spectromicroscopy spans batteries, catalysis for petroleum refining (see above mentioned August 31, 2016 SLAC News Feature), carbon sequestration, material under extreme conditions, and scientific big data mining.  “That’s the beauty of working as a staff scientist at a facility such as SSRL,” Liu says. “Every day, I work with experts with different professional backgrounds, and it gives me insight into the challenges we are facing in different research fields.”  Read more...

Upcoming Events

Scientific Opportunities for Ultrafast Hard X-rays at High Repetition Rate: An Energy Upgrade of LCLS-II – September 26-27, 2016

Looking to the future, the proposed energy upgrade of LCLS-II to 8 GeV (LCLS-II-HE) promises to open entirely new areas of science by providing x-ray energies extending beyond 12 keV to enable high repetition-rate studies of atomic, electronic, and chemical dynamics at the atomic scale.

The objective of this workshop is to further develop the science case for this proposed upgrade, and refine the technical requirements to ensure maximum scientific impact. The results of this workshop will help guide the design and performance capabilities of the upgraded facility; and will inform the planning for new future scientific instrumentation. Workshop website

4th High-Power Laser Workshop – October 3-4 2016

This workshop will bring together the international science community to discuss recent experimental results from matter in extreme conditions (MEC) enabled by the combination of high-power laser drivers with the world-class LCLS x-ray beam. We will discuss novel experiments in the high-pressure regime created by nanosecond lasers and in particular discuss results obtained with the recently commissioned 25 TW-laser. We will describe the scientific opportunities at the MEC instrument and provide time to discuss important physics proposals and experimental needs for cutting-edge research with the upcoming 200 TW-laser that is expected to become available shortly after the workshop.

The workshop will provide opportunities for presentations by students and postdocs in discussion and poster sessions. Workshop website

Register for SSRL/LCLS Users' Conference – October 5-8, 2016

The Annual SSRL/LCLS Users' Conference is an excellent opportunity for our user community to participate in an event that provides a broad sampling of multidisciplinary photon science through plenary presentations, poster talks, workshops and satellite events. Activities planned for this event include:

Workshops: Wednesday, October 5

  • High Throughput Serial MX Data Collection at Synchrotrons and FELs
  • Hybrid Methods and Dynamics in Structural Biology
  • LCLS-II Instrumentation Workshops NEH 1.x & NEH 2.x  (Parallel Workshops)
  • Discovering Functional Materials Faster
  • LCLS Data Analysis and Interface Hands-on Analysis Tutorial
  • Applying Machine Learning to LCLS Data Analysis

Plenary Talks: Thursday, October 6

  • Simon Bare, SLAC SSRL
  • Mike Dunne, SLAC LCLS
  • Kelly Gaffney, SLAC SSRL
  • Linda Horton, DOE BES
  • Mike Lubell, CCNY/American Physical Society
  • Marius Schmidt, University of Wisconsin
  • Stan Williams, Hewlett Packard

Workshops: Friday, October 7

  • Electrochemical Energy Materials and Fundamental Studies Using Synchrotron X-rays
  • In-Situ Catalysis with Advanced X-ray Methods
  • Sample Delivery: Methods & Equipment
  • SAXS for Biological Characterizations
  • ScÅtter Software Tutorial
  • Nonlinear X-rays - Advanced Methods and Science Applications
  • Analysis of xFEL scattering data from Biomolecules and Nanoparticles
  • Timing and Synchronization of X-ray and Optical Lasers

Events: Saturday, October 8

  • Young Investigators Session organized by BioXFEL
  • PULSE Institute 10-Year Anniversary Symposium

The activities scheduled over this multi-day event provide opportunities to discuss the latest user research results, current/future capabilities and new science opportunities as well as to network with scientists in many areas as well as vendors of light source related products and services.

We look forward to seeing you there!  Users' Conference website

Call for User Science Posters  Submit Poster Abstracts by September 28

The user science poster session during our Annual Users' Conference on October 6 is a great time to share your latest advances and results as well as network with colleagues to learn about new capabilities, technology and research results. And, there will be refreshments!  Poster abstract submission


Acknowledge SSRL in Your Publications

SSRL provides technical tools for world-leading science with the understanding that significant results are to be publicly disseminated. Please remember to acknowledge SSRL in ALL publications resulting from use of SSRL beam lines. This acknowledgement of SSRL is relevant even when final results are obtained at other facilities. If SSRL is not acknowledged in your paper or supplementary material, we are not able to include it on our list or report it to our funding agencies. Your assistance is essential to help us to meet our mission requirements, including assessment and reporting. More information is available on our publications page.

Meeting Summary

NUFO Update

The twentieth NUFO Annual Meeting was hosted by the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on June 14-16, 2016. Among the more than 100 participants were 13 user committee representatives, senior Office of Science and National Science Foundation (NSF) officials, four facility directors, and one laboratory - level chief operating officer. Representatives of European Union facilities, private sector information management, and publishing companies also participated. With such diverse representation from NUFO’s member communities, the 2016 Annual Meeting was among the most productive and successful in the organization’s history.

With the impending organizational transition from NUFO to SSURF, the meeting set out to identify opportunities for both continuity and progress, focusing on three thematic areas: improving the user experience, expanding the use of federated systems, and sharing best practices in information systems. With the active engagement of annual meeting participants in both plenary and facilitated breakout sessions, specific short - and longer - term opportunities for SSURF were defined for each of these areas.  See NUFO newsletter.

User Research Administration

SSRL Beam Time Request Deadlines

  • September 15, 2016 – Macromolecular Crystallography (Mid-November 2016 through February 2017 beam time)
  • November 23, 2016 - X-ray/VUV (February - May beam time)

Proposal Deadlines

  • December 1, 2016 – X-ray/VUV proposals (for beam time eligibility beginning in spring 2017)
  • December 1, 2016 – Macromolecular Crystallography proposals (for beam time eligibility beginning in March 2017)

Submit proposals and beam time requests through the user portal.


The Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) is a third-generation light source producing extremely bright x-rays for basic and applied research.  SSRL attracts and supports scientists from around the world who use its state-of-the-art capabilities to make discoveries that benefit society. SSRL, a U.S. DOE Office of Science national user facility, is a Directorate of SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, operated by Stanford University for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science.  The SSRL Structural Molecular Biology Program is supported by the DOE Office of Biological and Environmental Research, and by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of General Medical Sciences. For more information about SSRL science, operations and schedules, visit

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Questions? Comments? Contact Lisa Dunn