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  • richardmitnick 8:26 am on September 23, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "I focus on how electrons behave within solids.", "Think We Already Know Everything About Electrons? Think Again", , , , Emergent phenomena-in which groups of atoms or electrons act in unexpected ways., Groups of electrons collectively behave differently than we would expect from the way each individual electron acts on its own., , , , Songtian Sonia Zhang, Superconductivity is an example of an emergent phenomenon within physics., , , Women in STEM   

    From Simons Foundation: Women in STEM-Songtian Sonia Zhang”Think We Already Know Everything About Electrons? Think Again” 

    From Simons Foundation

    Songtian Sonia Zhang. Credit: Rick Soden, Princeton University
    Physicist Songtian Sonia Zhang explores how electrons work within the tiniest objects and finds that they sometimes do unexpected things.

    September 22, 2020
    Marcus Banks

    Songtian Sonia Zhang envisioned a life in finance, until she discovered that learning how electrons work is much more rewarding. A fundamental physicist with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, and a doctorate from Princeton University, Zhang has already discovered unexpected behaviors among electrons found in quantum materials like superconductors or magnets. But many mysteries remain about the behavior of these tiny particles. Now beginning a postdoctoral appointment at Columbia University in the physics lab of Dmitri N. Basov, Zhang already has lots of ideas about what she wants to explore next. Our conversation has been edited for clarity.

    You began as a dual major in economics and physics at the University of Waterloo. What prompted the sharper focus on physics instead?

    When I was an undergraduate at Waterloo, I planned to pursue a career in finance, perhaps even on Wall Street. I was interested in physics too, but I never imagined becoming a physicist. That all changed after I completed a physics research project in my third year of college, which happened to overlap with my first job at a financial services firm. This gave me the chance to directly compare finance to physics work — and physics won out handily.

    When I was doing physics, I felt like I was helping to bring new understanding into the world. I know that sounds corny, but it’s true. And it was far more rewarding to me than my work at the financial firm, where I essentially was moving money around. Don’t get me wrong, we need money! But I knew early that physics was for me.

    That sounds clarifying! But the study of physics is broad. How did you narrow your interests?

    During my last semester at Waterloo I researched a special kind of magnet known as ‘spin ice,’ in which the atoms are arranged in a complex lattice pattern. Most magnets have a north and south pole. And if you cut a magnet in two, each new magnet will then also have a north and south pole. But spin ice magnets have such a complex structure that we call them geometrically frustrated. Spin ice magnets can behave like monopoles — that is, a magnet with only one pole instead of the normal two. We still don’t know if monopoles even exist! But the spin ice magnet I studied sure seemed like a monopole, which was fascinating to me. When I first began to study physics, I assumed I would become an astrophysicist. Instead I decided to be more down-to-earth — literally. Today I study the physics of solids, not stars.

    This sounds like quantum physics.

    In many ways, yes. But quantum physics is an extremely broad term that can apply to many things, so in some ways it’s too general. The specific field I work in is condensed matter physics. I focus on how electrons behave within solids. I’m particularly interested in how groups of electrons behave, and especially how their collective behavior cannot be predicted by how each individual in the group acts.

    You’re saying that groups of electrons collectively behave differently than we would expect from the way each individual electron acts on its own?

    Exactly. We call this overall concept ‘emergent phenomena,’ in which groups of atoms or electrons act in unexpected ways. There are many examples of emergent phenomena in nature that go well beyond quantum physics. Think of individual birds migrating together as a cohesive flock, or a school of fish swimming upriver to spawn. Even though each individual bird or fish moves independently, they become entangled in the group and impossible to distinguish from one another.

    Superconductivity is an example of an emergent phenomenon within physics. Regular electrical conductors carry a current known as electricity; this is how we light lightbulbs, for example, by connecting an electricity source to an object that emits light. These kinds of everyday conductors come with inherent inefficiencies — energy is always lost because the electricity faces resistance as it travels. This is why lightbulbs eventually burn out.

    In contrast, a superconductor operating in extremely low temperatures (−450 F) can keep conducting electricity forever, because the electricity meets no resistance at all. Nobody could have predicted that superconductors could do this. It had to be discovered through observation, and it’s an example of how we are constantly learning about new types of emergent phenomena. Sometimes this is purely about developing knowledge for its own sake, but oftentimes this work has practical applications.

    We’ll loop back to the practical applications in a moment. First, though, what was your most exciting discovery at Princeton?

    At Princeton I studied kagome magnets. The atoms that comprise these magnets are arranged in a lattice which evokes the famous Japanese basket lattice pattern of the same name.

    Scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) image of magnetic adatoms deposited on topological superconductor candidate PbTaSe2. Inset: a 2D enlarged view. Each magnetic adatom can host a Majorana zero mode acting as a topological qubit which has the potential to be used for robust quantum computation. Credit: Songtian Zhang.

    Like the spin ice magnets I previously mentioned, kagome magnets are geometrically frustrated. In our research, we did various things to these magnets, such as observing them within magnetic fields of various strengths or alternating their temperatures. This was all to see how the electrons behaved in different conditions. In high magnetic fields the kagome magnets started acting like negative magnets — meaning they exerted more energy when moving in the same direction as a magnetic field and not when going ‘against the wind,’ so to speak.

    We published these unexpected results in Nature Physics last year.

    The fact that we discovered something totally unexpected shows the importance of keeping an open mind, of not being locked into any one idea. Instead, we are always finding new questions to ask.

    As you begin your postdoctoral work at Columbia, what do you plan to focus on, at least initially, until you discover new questions?

    I’m interested in learning more about topological insulators: objects that, on the surface, conduct electricity but in their interior act as an insulator. When the material is cut, the new surface, which was previously the insulating bulk, becomes conductive and can now support surface currents. Besides topological insulators there are topological superconductors, which can superconduct currents of electricity. The physics community has made some headway in understanding these superconductors, but there’s a lot more work that needs to be done.

    And how do you hope this knowledge will inform our understanding of the natural and physical world?

    Topological superconductors come from the math concept of topology. A good way to think about topology is the relationship between a doughnut, with a hole in the middle, and a ball, which has no holes. In this comparison, the doughnut and the ball are topologically distinct.

    By comparison, the doughnut would be topologically identical to a ring, which also has a hole in the middle. In this example, the number of holes is a topological property that can’t be destroyed without changing the underlying nature of the object.

    In physics, we’re interested in electronic behaviors that are similarly robust, such as in topological superconductors. There’s great potential for topological superconductors to be used for powerful, reliable and robust quantum computation, which will be a giant leap past the computers we use today. I can’t say exactly how my work will contribute to this, but I do know I’m excited to be on the journey. And I know I will enjoy it more than working on Wall Street.

    See the full article here.


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    Mission and Model

    The Simons Foundation’s mission is to advance the frontiers of research in mathematics and the basic sciences.

    Co-founded in New York City by Jim and Marilyn Simons, the foundation exists to support basic — or discovery-driven — scientific research undertaken in the pursuit of understanding the phenomena of our world.

    The Simons Foundation’s support of science takes two forms: We support research by making grants to individual investigators and their projects through academic institutions, and, with the launch of the Flatiron Institute in 2016, we now conduct scientific research in-house, supporting teams of top computational scientists.

  • richardmitnick 12:24 pm on September 4, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Assistant Professor Carmody McCalley, , , EMERGE stands for “EMergent Ecosystem Response to ChanGE.”, EMERGE will focus on better understanding ecosystem and climate interactions like the thawing of the Arctic permafrost., EMERGE- a new NSF-funded Biology Integration Institute., Isotope geochemistry, , The end result of the project will be a new “genes-to-ecosystems-to-genes” framework to create models that could help predict ecosystem response to change., The research will be done in Stordalen Mire- a long-studied peatland in northern Sweden where permafrost thaw drives changes in the landscape; plants; and microbes., Women in STEM   

    From Rochester Institute of Technology: Women in STEM Carmody McCalley “RIT collaborates with 13 other universities to understand climate change and ecosystems” 

    From Rochester Institute of Technology

    Assistant Professor Carmody McCalley leads RIT’s contributions to NSF-funded institute.

    RIT Assistant Professor Carmody McCalley at the research site Stordalen Mire in Abisko, Sweden. She will lead RIT’s contributions to EMERGE, a new NSF-funded Biology Integration Institute that will focus on better understanding ecosystem and climate interactions like the thawing of the Arctic permafrost.

    Rochester Institute of Technology is one of 14 universities from around the globe that have collectively been awarded $12.5 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to launch a new Biology Integration Institute (BII).

    It will focus on better understanding ecosystem and climate interactions—like the thawing of the Arctic permafrost—and how they can alter everything from the landscape to greenhouse gases.

    EMERGE, which stands for “EMergent Ecosystem Response to ChanGE,” is an ambitious five-year project that will concentrate on discovering how the processes that sustain life and enable biological innovation operate and interact within and between each other—from molecules to cells, species, and ecosystems—under dynamically changing conditions. The end result will be a new “genes-to-ecosystems-to-genes” framework to create models that could help predict ecosystem response to change.

    “The big goal is to see if we can do a better job at predicting how ecosystems respond to climate change and develop a better understanding of how molecular-scale and large-scale processes interact,” said Carmody McCalley, an assistant professor in the Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences and the principal investigator for RIT’s contributions to the project. “We’re attempting to achieve that by bringing together a large, interdisciplinary group. The key is collaborating across disciplines—everything from high-end molecular genomics to ecosystem modeling to isotope geochemistry.”

    McCalley is an expert in isotope geochemistry and looks at the isotopic composition of methane to determine where methane molecules came from. Changes in the isotopic signature of methane coming from a thawing permafrost system can indicate there has been a change in the biology and physics of how methane moves through the environment. The College of Science faculty member will work with her collaborators in fields such as microbial genomics and biogeochemistry to link those changes to causes and effects.

    The project will be led by The Ohio State University and will consist of a team of 33 scientists representing 15 specialties. The partnership brings together expertise inside and outside of biology, such as ecology and evolution, organismal biology, team science, and modeling and computational science.

    “Ecosystems respond to changing conditions, like a new agricultural practice or changing rainfall patterns, in a way that is greater than the sum of the responses of individual parts,” said Virginia Rich, associate professor of microbiology at Ohio State and co-director for EMERGE. “To address this challenge head-on, our team will pull cutting-edge ideas and methods from across biology and beyond into a unified vision for seeing what each discipline, alone, cannot—piecing back together the forest from the trees, if you will. It is incredibly exciting.”

    The research will be done in Stordalen Mire, a long-studied peatland in northern Sweden where permafrost thaw drives changes in the landscape, plants, and microbes. The institute, which will launch in September, will also have a strong training, education, and outreach component and will involve biologists at the postdoctoral, graduate, and undergraduate levels.

    Participating universities include University of Arizona, Florida State University, Colorado State University at Fort Collins, Case Western Reserve University, University of California at Berkeley, Rochester Institute of Technology, Berkeley Labs, Joint Genome Institute, all in the United States; Lund University, Umeå University and Stockholm University, all in Sweden; and Queensland University of Technology in Australia.

    See the full article here .


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    Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) is a private doctoral university within the town of Henrietta in the Rochester, New York metropolitan area.

    RIT is composed of nine academic colleges, including National Technical Institute for the Deaf. The Institute is one of only a small number of engineering institutes in the State of New York, including New York Institute of Technology, SUNY Polytechnic Institute, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. It is most widely known for its fine arts, computing, engineering, and imaging science programs; several fine arts programs routinely rank in the national “Top 10” according to US News & World Report.

    The Institute as it is known today began as a result of an 1891 merger between Rochester Athenæum, a literary society founded in 1829 by Colonel Nathaniel Rochester and associates, and Mechanics Institute, a Rochester institute of practical technical training for local residents founded in 1885 by a consortium of local businessmen including Captain Henry Lomb, co-founder of Bausch & Lomb. The name of the merged institution at the time was called Rochester Athenæum and Mechanics Institute (RAMI). In 1944, the school changed its name to Rochester Institute of Technology and it became a full-fledged research university.

  • richardmitnick 10:24 am on September 4, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Microwaving new materials", , , , , Jayan used x-ray pair distribution function (PDF) analysis., Microwaving tailor-made ceramic materials with new electronic thermal and mechanical properties., Reeja Jayan, Women in STEM   

    From Carnegie Mellon University and Brookhaven National Lab: Women in STEM- Reeja Jayan “Microwaving new materials” 

    From Carnegie Mellon University


    From Brookhaven National Lab

    Sherry Stokes

    Reeja Jayan

    Reeja Jayan has made a breakthrough in our understanding of how microwaves affect materials chemistry, laying the groundwork for tailor-made ceramic materials with new electronic, thermal, and mechanical properties.

    Microwave ovens are the mainstay of cooking appliances in our homes. Five years ago, when Reeja Jayan was a new professor at Carnegie Mellon University, she was intrigued by the idea of using microwaves to grow materials. She and other researchers had shown that microwave radiation enabled temperature crystallization and growth of ceramic oxides. Exactly how microwaves did this was not well understood, and this mystery inspired Jayan to reengineer a $30 microwave oven so she could investigate the dynamics effects of microwave radiation on the growth of materials.

    If you look carefully in the center of this photo, you will see the $30 microwave oven that Reeja Jayan reengineered to start her experiments.
    Source credit: Reeja Jayan.

    Today, Jayan, who is now an associate professor of mechanical engineering, has made a breakthrough in our understanding of how microwaves affect materials chemistry. She and her student Nathan Nakamura exposed tin oxide (a ceramic) to 2.45 GHz microwave radiation and figured out how to monitor (in situ) atomic structural changes as they occurred. This discovery is important because she demonstrated that microwaves affected the tin oxide’s oxygen sublattice via distortions introduced in the local atomic structure. Such distortions do not occur during conventional materials synthesis (where energy is directly applied as heat).

    Unlike prior studies, which suffered from the inability to monitor structural changes while the microwaves were applied, Jayan developed novel tools (a custom-designed microwave reactor enabling in-situ synchrotron x-ray scattering) for studying these dynamic, field-driven changes in local atomic structure as they happen. By revealing the dynamics of how microwaves affect specific chemical bonds during the synthesis, Jayan is laying the groundwork for tailor-made ceramic materials with new electronic, thermal, and mechanical properties.

    In-situ PDF Data Collection: Waveguide installed at 28-ID-2 beamline at the National Synchrotron Light Source II, Brookhaven National Laboratory. The results in Jayan’s paper [below] came from the custom-built microwave reactor, which offers precise engineering controls. (Source: Reeja Jayan.)

    “Once we know the dynamics, we can use this knowledge to make materials that are far away from equilibrium, as well as devise new energy efficient processes for existing materials, such as 3D printing of ceramics,” she says. The commercialization of additive manufacturing of metals and plastics is widespread, but the same cannot be said for ceramic materials. 3D printing of ceramics could advance industries ranging from healthcare—imagine artificial bones and dental implants—to industrial tooling and electronics—ceramics can survive high temperatures that metals can’t. However, integrating ceramic materials with today’s 3D printing technologies is difficult because ceramics are brittle, ultrahigh temperatures are required, and we don’t understand how to control their properties during printing processes.

    Jayan’s findings were derived from unconventional experiments that relied on a combination of tools. She used x-ray pair distribution function (PDF) analysis to provide real-time, in situ structural information about tin oxide as it was being exposed to microwave radiation. She compared these results to tin oxide that was synthesized without electromagnetic field exposure. The comparisons revealed that the microwaves were influencing atomic-scale structure by disturbing the oxygen sublattice. “We were the first to prove that microwaves create such localized interactions by devising a method to watch them live during a chemical reaction,” says Jayan.

    The custom-built microwave reactor was integrated into the X-ray Powder Diffraction (XPD) beamline located at the US Department of Energy Brookhaven National Laboratory. Source: US Department of Energy Brookhaven National Laboratory.

    These experiments were extremely difficult to conduct and required a custom-built microwave reactor. (This represented a significant upgrade in cost and engineering compared to the original domestic oven). The reactor was designed in collaboration with Gerling Applied Engineering, and the experiments were conducted at the US Department of Energy Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL). Dr. Sanjit Ghose and Dr. Jianming Bai, lead scientists at BNL, were instrumental in helping Jayan’s team integrate the microwave reactor into the beamline.

    “Another takeaway from this research is that microwaves can do more than just heating. They can have a non-thermal effect, which can rearrange the structure of materials like a jigsaw puzzle,” says Jayan. Building on this concept, she is investigating how to use microwaves to engineer new materials.

    The results of Jayan’s research were published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A. The paper was recognized as part of the 2020 Emerging Investigators Issue of the journal. Jayan’s work was supported by a Young Investigator grant from the U.S. Department of Defense, Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

    See the full article here .


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    BNL Campus

    Brookhaven campus

    BNL Center for Functional Nanomaterials



    BNL RHIC Campus

    BNL/RHIC Star Detector

    BNL Phenix Detector

    One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven Lab also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers. The Laboratory’s almost 3,000 scientists, engineers, and support staff are joined each year by more than 5,000 visiting researchers from around the world. Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE’s Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by Stony Brook University, the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit, applied science and technology organization.

    Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is a global research university with more than 12,000 students, 95,000 alumni, and 5,000 faculty and staff.
    CMU has been a birthplace of innovation since its founding in 1900.
    Today, we are a global leader bringing groundbreaking ideas to market and creating successful startup businesses.
    Our award-winning faculty members are renowned for working closely with students to solve major scientific, technological and societal challenges. We put a strong emphasis on creating things—from art to robots. Our students are recruited by some of the world’s most innovative companies.
    We have campuses in Pittsburgh, Qatar and Silicon Valley, and degree-granting programs around the world, including Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and Latin America.

  • richardmitnick 8:13 am on September 4, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "A chemist who plays with space", Alison Wendlandt, , , Enantioselective catalysis, , Stereochemistry, Women in STEM   

    From MIT News: Women in STEM- “A chemist who plays with space” Alison Wendlandt 

    MIT News

    From MIT News

    September 3, 2020
    Fernanda Ferreira | School of Science

    Alison Wendlandt explores how the layout of atoms in molecules, such as sugars and drugs, can affect their nature and our bodies.

    Alison Wendlandt, Green Career Development Assistant Professor of Chemistry. Credits: Photo: Justin Knight.

    The image on the left shows the intensity of the blue LED light that drives the reaction of the synthesis of rare sugar isomers. The image on the right was taken with an orange filter, which removed blue light, to show the reaction setup itself. There are about 28 reaction vials screening a variety of variables. Credits: Image: Hayden Carder.

    Much of the earthy taste of rye bread is due to caraway seeds. These seeds get their flavor from carvone, a molecule made up of 10 carbon atoms, 14 hydrogen atoms, and one oxygen atom. But earthy isn’t the only taste that exact collection of atoms can create. The minty taste of spearmint is also due to carvone. Which flavor you get depends on the spatial distribution of the atoms in the molecule; if you placed both carvones side by side, you’d see them as mirror images of each other.

    The study of the spatial distribution of atoms in a molecule is called stereochemistry. Alison Wendlandt, the Green Career Development Assistant Professor of Chemistry at MIT, explains that when it comes to molecules, it’s not only the atoms that determine molecular properties, but also the very three-dimensional arrangement of the similarly connected atoms.

    This spatial distribution of atoms doesn’t just impact flavor. It can also determine the effectiveness of a drug molecule. Wendlandt’s work focuses on finding strategies for fine-tuning the stereochemistry of molecules and, in doing so, how quickly and thoroughly a drug treatment can work in patients.

    Mirror images

    When Wendlandt entered college, she wasn’t planning on majoring in chemistry; she was a math major. “But I ended up taking organic chemistry, and it just clicked as a language,” she says. Many students approach chemistry via memorization, but for Wendlandt the logic of chemistry innately made sense. “There was no memorizing, just understanding the rules,” she remembers. “And then at that point, there was nothing else I could do.”

    Wendlandt’s training is in catalysis, which involves designing a catalyst to get a desired reaction. “A catalyst is any kind of reagent that can promote a reaction but isn’t consumed in that reaction,” says Wendlandt. This can be a reaction that is hard to perform, or one that leads to a specific product or outcome. During her postdoc at Harvard University, she focused on enantioselective catalysis, where a specific enantiomer, one of a pair of mirror image molecules, is generated.

    There are a number of aspects of enantioselective catalysis that attract Wendlandt to the work, but two stand out. “One is the importance of chiral drug molecules,” she says. With drug molecules, it’s often the case that only one enantiomer has the drug properties of interest, while the other has no effect or, in some cases, a negative effect. “There are some famous catastrophes where our failure to control or acknowledge the off-target effects of enantiomers led to disasters.” Thalidomide, which was taken by pregnant women in the 1950s, is one such example. “One enantiomer was fine and treated morning sickness effectively, and the other enantiomer was a teratogen and led to birth defect issues,” says Wendlandt. “It was totally a stereochemistry problem.”

    Wendlandt is also attracted to the molecular design aspect of the work. “It allows us to make a very small energetic change to reaction coordinates,” she says. In terms of energy, Wendlandt explains, 1,000-2,000 calories — like the ones you consume and use for energy — can determine whether a product is a balanced mix of two enantiomers or whether it’s a pure mix of just the one enantiomer of interest. With catalysis, Wendlandt says, you can actually control the reaction’s path.

    Sugar rush

    Many molecules have stereochemistry, but the class of molecules Wendlandt is particularly interested in are sugars. She explains that, for molecules like amino acids and proteins, their properties are often determined by their functional groups, groupings of atoms on the molecule that give it a specific nature. This is not the case with sugars. “Many of the biological and physical properties of sugars are stereochemistry-related,” Wendlandt says. With some important exceptions, all sugars are isomers, meaning they share the same basic chemical formula. “They just differ in terms of their spatial connectivity.”

    In the body, sugars serve a number of functions, from energy and information storage to structure, and they’re also common components in pharmaceutical drugs. Some sugars, such as glucose and cellulose, are easy to come by, but others, particularly those that can be active ingredients in drugs, are harder to produce. These rare sugars “have to be made by chemical synthesis,” says Wendlandt.

    Despite the importance of sugars, studying them is hampered by subpar methods for producing rare sugars, says Wendlandt. “And the reason these methods are poor has to do with our inability to manage issues of selectivity,” she says. Because the property of sugars are determined by their stereochemistry, making a rare sugar often comes down to moving a specific atom from one location on the molecule to another. It’s a major challenge, but one Wendlandt is drawn to.

    In a January 2020 paper in Nature, Wendlandt and her lab made allose, a rare sugar, by modifying the spatial distribution of atoms in a glucose molecule. The process involved breaking a chemical bond in one spot and reforming it in another spot on the molecule, which goes against a chemical principle called microscopic reversibility. “It dictates that the way the bond is broken is the same way that the bond is formed,” explains Wendlandt. To get around this, the lab decoupled the bond-breaking and bond-forming process by using two catalysts: one to break the bond and another to form it. With these two separate catalysts and some blue light to drive catalysis, a hydrogen atom is removed from a specific spot on the sugar molecule while a new hydrogen atom is added to another stereochemical position on that same molecule. With this switch, common glucose became rare allose.

    Making allose is just the start. What drives the site selectivity of the reaction is not yet clear, and it’s a question Wendlandt and her lab are continuing to probe. “If we can understand why these reactions are selective, we can, in principle, design them to do other things,” says Wendlandt, such as breaking bonds at other sites on the molecule. Once predictability and stability is honed, this method can become a powerful tool in pharmaceuticals, including many FDA-approved antiviral, antibacterial, anti-cancer, and cardiac drugs. “A medicinal chemist can come in and say ‘OK, I want to edit this bond or that bond,’” imagines Wendlandt, letting them fine-tune sugars into potent pharmaceutical ingredients. This tinkering of atoms in a molecule can mean the difference between tragedy and safe, effective drugs.

    See the full article here .

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    USPS “Forever” postage stamps celebrating Innovation at MIT

    MIT Seal

    The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the twenty-first century. We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.

    MIT Campus

  • richardmitnick 7:08 am on August 28, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "How Cold Was the Ice Age? Researchers Now Know", A University of Arizona-led team has nailed down the temperature of the last ice age – the Last Glacial Maximum of 20000 years ago – to about 46 degrees Fahrenheit., In North America and Europe the most northern parts were covered in ice and were extremely cold., It was about 14 C (25 F) colder than today., Jessica Tierney, Polar amplification-the high latitudes will get warmer faster than low latitudes., , Women in STEM   

    From University of Arizona: Women in STEM-“How Cold Was the Ice Age? Researchers Now Know” Jessica Tierney 

    From University of Arizona

    Mikayla Mace

    This global map shows the temperature differences compared to preindustrial times. Dark blue translates to cooler temperatures. The ice sheets of the past are superimposed on the continents. Credit: Jessica Tierney.

    A University of Arizona-led team has nailed down the temperature of the last ice age – the Last Glacial Maximum of 20,000 years ago – to about 46 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Their findings allow climate scientists to better understand the relationship between today’s rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide – a major greenhouse gas – and average global temperature.

    The Last Glacial Maximum, or LGM, was a frigid period when huge glaciers covered about half of North America, Europe and South America and many parts of Asia, while flora and fauna that were adapted to the cold thrived.

    Jessica Tierney

    “We have a lot of data about this time period because it has been studied for so long,” said Jessica Tierney, associate professor in the UArizona Department of Geosciences. “But one question science has long wanted answers to is simple: How cold was the ice age?”

    Tracking Temperature

    Tierney is lead author of a paper published today in Nature that found that the average global temperature of the ice age was 6 degrees Celsius (11 F) cooler than today. For context, the average global temperature of the 20th century was 14 C (57 F).

    “In your own personal experience that might not sound like a big difference, but, in fact, it’s a huge change,” Tierney said.

    She and her team also created maps to illustrate how temperature differences varied in specific regions across the globe.

    “In North America and Europe, the most northern parts were covered in ice and were extremely cold. Even here in Arizona, there was big cooling,” Tierney said. “But the biggest cooling was in high latitudes, such as the Arctic, where it was about 14 C (25 F) colder than today.”

    Their findings fit with scientific understanding of how Earth’s poles react to temperature changes.

    “Climate models predict that the high latitudes will get warmer faster than low latitudes,” Tierney said. “When you look at future projections, it gets really warm over the Arctic. That’s referred to as polar amplification. Similarly, during the LGM, we find the reverse pattern. Higher latitudes are just more sensitive to climate change and will remain so going forward.”

    Counting Carbon

    Knowing the temperature of the ice age matters because it is used to calculate climate sensitivity, meaning how much the global temperature shifts in response to atmospheric carbon.

    Tierney and her team determined that for every doubling of atmospheric carbon, global temperature should increase by 3.4 C (6.1 F), which is in the middle of the range predicted by the latest generation of climate models (1.8 to 5.6 C).

    Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels during the ice age were about 180 parts per million, which is very low. Before the Industrial Revolution, levels rose to about 280 parts per million, and today they’ve reached 415 parts per million.

    “The Paris Agreement wanted to keep global warming to no larger than 2.7 F (1.5 C) over pre-industrial levels, but with carbon dioxide levels increasing the way they are, it would be extremely difficult to avoid more than 3.6 F (2 C) of warming,” Tierney said. “We already have about 2 F (1.1 C) under our belt, but the less warm we get the better, because the Earth system really does respond to changes in carbon dioxide.”

    Making a Model

    Since there were no thermometers in the ice age, Tierney and her team developed models to translate data collected from ocean plankton fossils into sea-surface temperatures. They then combined the fossil data with climate model simulations of the LGM using a technique called data assimilation, which is used in weather forecasting.

    “What happens in a weather office is they measure the temperature, pressure, humidity and use these measurements to update a forecasting model and predict the weather,” Tierney said. “Here, we use the Boulder, Colorado-based National Center for Atmospheric Research climate model to produce a hindcast of the LGM, and then we update this hindcast with the actual data to predict what the climate was like.”

    In the future, Tierney and her team plan to use the same technique to recreate warm periods in Earth’s past.

    “If we can reconstruct past warm climates,” she said, “then we can start to answer important questions about how the Earth reacts to really high carbon dioxide levels, and improve our understanding of what future climate change might hold.”

    The research was supported by the Heisings-Simons Foundation and the National Science Foundation.

    See the full article here .

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    The University of Arizona (UA) is a place without limits-where teaching, research, service and innovation merge to improve lives in Arizona and beyond. We aren’t afraid to ask big questions, and find even better answers.

    In 1885, establishing Arizona’s first university in the middle of the Sonoran Desert was a bold move. But our founders were fearless, and we have never lost that spirit. To this day, we’re revolutionizing the fields of space sciences, optics, biosciences, medicine, arts and humanities, business, technology transfer and many others. Since it was founded, the UA has grown to cover more than 380 acres in central Tucson, a rich breeding ground for discovery.

    U Arizona mirror lab-Where else in the world can you find an astronomical observatory mirror lab under a football stadium?

    University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2, located in the Sonoran desert. An entire ecosystem under a glass dome? Visit our campus, just once, and you’ll quickly understand why the UA is a university unlike any other.

  • richardmitnick 9:50 am on August 24, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Southeast Asian megadrought dating back 5000 years discovered in Laos cave", , Evidence for the megadrought came from Laos’ Luang Prabang Province where White has worked since 2001., Joyce White, Much like tree rings stalagmites have rings that contain datable signs of changing climate., , , Women in STEM   

    From Penn Today: Women in STEM-“Southeast Asian megadrought dating back 5,000 years discovered in Laos cave” Joyce White 

    From Penn Today

    August 21, 2020
    Michele W. Berger

    In a Q&A, Penn archaeologist Joyce White discusses the partnership with paleoclimatologists that led to the finding, plus possible implications of such a dramatic climate change for societies at that time.

    Penn archaeologist Joyce White (center) has been working in Laos since 2001 with teams like the one shown here. Discovering evidence of a 1,000-year drought in a Laos cave was unexpected, she says, but does answer some questions about the Middle Holocene, a period she’d previously described as the “missing millennia.” (Pre-pandemic image: Courtesy of Joyce White.)

    Southeast Asia typically evokes rich and wet tropical forests. So, the discovery of a drought more than 1,000 years long beginning about 5,000 years ago was an unexpected outcome from research started by the Penn Museum’s Joyce White nearly two decades ago. She and colleagues from the University of California, Irvine; William Paterson University; the University of Quebec; and more published these findings in the journal Nature Communications.

    Evidence for the megadrought came from Laos’ Luang Prabang Province, where White has worked since 2001. A Henry Luce Foundation grant enabled the research program to expand starting in 2008, and a paleoclimate team that included William Paterson’s Michael Griffiths and Kathleen Johnson of UCI, co-lead authors on the latest paper, joined in 2010. Some of their work included collecting stalagmite samples from the Tham Doun Mai cave along the Ou River.

    Much like tree rings, stalagmites have rings that contain datable signs of changing climate. As rainwater drips through cracks in a cave’s roof, it interacts with a mineral called calcite to form stalactites on the cave’s ceiling. As that water-mineral mixture drips from the stalactite, stalagmites form on the floor below, building over time, layer by layer.

    “From those rings, we can interpret the occurrence of various climate events,” says White, who directs the Penn Museum’s Middle Mekong Archaeological Project and is an adjunct professor in Penn’s Department of Anthropology. “In this case, two of the stalagmites stopped growing for several hundred years, then started to grow again.” Chemical analyses confirmed that a prolonged drought lasting more than 1,000 years caused the cessation.

    When combined with climate modeling, the cave evidence seems connected to changes in vegetation and dust in northern Africa that happened around the same time—right around when the Sahara transitioned from forest to desert. The modeling also showed how such changes in northern Africa could affect rainfall across Southeast Asia. Penn Today talked with White about what the discovery means, plus the work that led to it.

    Rock shelters in Laos near the Tham Doun Mai cave where researchers found evidence of the 1,000-year megadrought. (Pre-pandemic image courtesy of Joyce White)

    What’s the main finding of this research?

    There was this absolutely huge drought that lasted for more than 1,000 years that occurred in the Middle Holocene. That’s amazing in and of itself and wasn’t really anticipated by other research. This is outstanding evidence for the type of climate change that must have affected societies, what plants were available, what animals were available. All of biotic life had to adjust to this very different climate. From an archaeological point of view, this really is a game changer in how we try to understand and reconstruct this period.

    When you refer to the Middle Holocene, what do you mean?

    The Holocene in general is commonly considered to begin about 11,000 years ago, and the Middle Holocene is from about 6,000 to 4,000 years ago.

    Before this finding, what did we know about the Holocene?

    We understood pretty well what was going on in the Early Holocene, essentially hunting and gathering. We also knew that the Late Holocene was an agrarian period. The link between the two was still a mystery, mysterious partly because there is a Middle Holocene gap in the archaeological record in interior Southeast Asia, what I’d been calling the missing millennia.

    There’s a mountain range between Vietnam and the Mekong Valley, where Laos is. On the Vietnam side, there are many Middle Holocene sites, but I wanted to find those on the west side, on the Laos side in the Mekong Valley. Archaeology is very much the tortoise and not the hare; you can’t necessarily go into a region and know you’re going to find evidence for whatever you’re hypothesizing. You record whatever you find, and that takes energy and time. We knew the Middle Holocene had to be there somewhere. I figured we just didn’t quite understand the landscape yet. This was before we knew about this drought.

    How did this archaeological work in Laos begin?

    Like many countries in Southeast Asia, Laos was not accessible to research until the ’90s. However, Thailand has been an area of archaeological study since the 1960s, and Penn was one of a handful of pioneering universities that undertook fieldwork there. The site we’re most famous for is Ban Chiang, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and research related to that site is one of my main research endeavors.

    In the late 1990s, the director of the Penn Museum urged me to set up a project in Laos. In those days, that wasn’t an easy thing to do. When I got there, I was assigned a counterpart. We rented a truck and drove around first near Vientiane, the capital, followed by a brief trip to Luang Prabang, a former royal capital. In about two and a half days in Luang Prabang, I saw evidence of 10,000 years of human occupation, which is not an everyday occurrence for an archaeologist. It was mind-blowing.

    During that initial trip, you’ve said that you noticed Luang Prabang was located at the intersection of the Seuang, Khan, and Ou rivers, where they meet and flow into the Mekong. How did that guide your next steps?

    I decided I wanted to do a regional survey that looked at all three rivers, not just one, because you could pick the wrong one. We would use mobile GIS, which was cutting edge at that time, and have three separate teams exploring each river independently. Then we’d collate the data. I took another trip to get the Lao government to agree to my plan, and it took a year or two to raise money.

    In 2005, with grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society, we conducted the first formal survey of the Middle Mekong Archaeological Project. Everything was joint teams; I wanted 50-50 Lao, non-Lao teams. In about three weeks, we found nearly 60 sites, which demonstrated that this was an archaeologically rich area. We found evidence of the Stone Age, ceramics of a wide variety, the kind of thing you can find on the surface of sites and in caves.

    We started test excavations of cave sites beginning in 2007. The research being published today is from 2010, the first season the paleoclimatologists joined us. They looked at many other sites, but that one on the Ou River and in the Tham Doun Mai cave was the outstanding one.

    How did the team unearth the megadrought?

    When rainwater from stalactites drips, stalagmites form beneath. Based on their growth and chemistry, the layers can be dated. For two of the stalactites, the dripping stopped, and preliminary data show it was for 1,000 to 2,000 years. That indicates that it wasn’t just a dry spell. It was massive.

    This type of complete change in climate has to have an impact on the biotic life, but we don’t really understand that in detail yet. That being said, I think this is going to change the conversation about that whole period across Eurasia and certainly Southeast Asia. The fact that there are profound climatic phenomena at a continental scale in the Holocene timeframe is quite new in scholarly conversations among archaeologists. This kind of research, when you combine archaeology, paleoclimatology, and modeling, will more effectively bring out this type of finding.

    What’s next for your work?

    With COVID, who knows when we can start fieldwork again. We didn’t finish our survey on the Ou River so I would like to do that. But to flesh out the human part of the story, we need to look at aspects of our excavated evidence, including shells we had collected from the four tested sites, which were different ranges of species. Once you know what the shell is adapted to, you can get human-scaled evidence for change of subsistence and environment. We made great headway this past January and we have other animal remains to study, too. You can get some nice tight data that inform much more on the human dimension in relationship to the massive climate shifts.

    See the full article here .


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    Academic life at Penn is unparalleled, with 100 countries and every U.S. state represented in one of the Ivy League’s most diverse student bodies. Consistently ranked among the top 10 universities in the country, Penn enrolls 10,000 undergraduate students and welcomes an additional 10,000 students to our world-renowned graduate and professional schools.

    Penn’s award-winning educators and scholars encourage students to pursue inquiry and discovery, follow their passions, and address the world’s most challenging problems through an interdisciplinary approach.

  • richardmitnick 2:42 pm on August 20, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Stanford scientists slow and steer light with resonant nanoantennas", , “High-Q” resonators, Biosensing, , , , , , Women in STEM   

    From Stanford University: Women in STEM-“Stanford scientists slow and steer light with resonant nanoantennas” Jennifer Dionne 

    Stanford University Name
    From Stanford University

    August 17, 2020
    Media Contact
    Ker Than
    Stanford News Service:
    (650) 723-9820

    Written By Lara Streiff

    Researchers have fashioned ultrathin silicon nanoantennas that trap and redirect light, for applications in quantum computing, LIDAR and even the detection of viruses.

    An artist rendering of a high-Q metasurface beamsplitter. These “high-quality-factor” or “high-Q” resonators could lead to novel ways of manipulating and using light. (Image credit: Riley A. Suhar)

    Light is notoriously fast. Its speed is crucial for rapid information exchange, but as light zips through materials, its chances of interacting and exciting atoms and molecules can become very small. If scientists can put the brakes on light particles, or photons, it would open the door to a host of new technology applications.

    Now, in a paper published on Aug. 17, in Nature Nanotechnology, Stanford scientists demonstrate a new approach to slow light significantly, much like an echo chamber holds onto sound, and to direct it at will. Researchers in the lab of Jennifer Dionne, associate professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford, structured ultrathin silicon chips into nanoscale bars to resonantly trap light and then release or redirect it later. These “high-quality-factor” or “high-Q” resonators could lead to novel ways of manipulating and using light, including new applications for quantum computing, virtual reality and augmented reality; light-based WiFi; and even the detection of viruses like SARS-CoV-2.

    “We’re essentially trying to trap light in a tiny box that still allows the light to come and go from many different directions,” said postdoctoral fellow Mark Lawrence, who is also lead author of the paper. “It’s easy to trap light in a box with many sides, but not so easy if the sides are transparent – as is the case with many Silicon-based applications.”

    Make and manufacture

    Before they can manipulate light, the resonators need to be fabricated, and that poses a number of challenges.

    A central component of the device is an extremely thin layer of silicon, which traps light very efficiently and has low absorption in the near-infrared, the spectrum of light the scientists want to control. The silicon rests atop a wafer of transparent material (sapphire, in this case) into which the researchers direct an electron microscope “pen” to etch their nanoantenna pattern. The pattern must be drawn as smoothly as possible, as these antennas serve as the walls in the echo-chamber analogy, and imperfections inhibit the light-trapping ability.

    “High-Q resonances require the creation of extremely smooth sidewalls that don’t allow the light to leak out,” said Dionne, who is also Senior Associate Vice Provost of Research Platforms/Shared Facilities. “That can be achieved fairly routinely with larger micron-scale structures, but is very challenging with nanostructures which scatter light more.”

    Pattern design plays a key role in creating the high-Q nanostructures. “On a computer, I can draw ultra-smooth lines and blocks of any given geometry, but the fabrication is limited,” said Lawrence. “Ultimately, we had to find a design that gave good-light trapping performance but was within the realm of existing fabrication methods.”

    High quality (factor) applications

    Tinkering with the design has resulted in what Dionne and Lawrence describe as an important platform technology with numerous practical applications.

    The devices demonstrated so-called quality factors up to 2,500, which is two orders of magnitude (or 100 times) higher than any similar devices have previously achieved. Quality factors are a measure describing resonance behavior, which in this case is proportional to the lifetime of the light. “By achieving quality factors in the thousands, we’re already in a nice sweet spot from some very exciting technological applications,” said Dionne.

    For example, biosensing. A single biomolecule is so small that it is essentially invisible. But passing light over a molecule hundreds or thousands of times can greatly increase the chance of creating a detectable scattering effect.

    Dionne’s lab is working on applying this technique to detecting COVID-19 antigens – molecules that trigger an immune response – and antibodies – proteins produced by the immune system in response. “Our technology would give an optical readout like the doctors and clinicians are used to seeing,” said Dionne. “But we have the opportunity to detect a single virus or very low concentrations of a multitude of antibodies owing to the strong light-molecule interactions.” The design of the high-Q nanoresonators also allows each antenna to operate independently to detect different types of antibodies simultaneously.

    Though the pandemic spurred her interest in viral detection, Dionne is also excited about other applications, such as LIDAR – or Light Detection and Ranging, which is laser-based distance measuring technology often used in self-driving vehicles – that this new technology could contribute to. “A few years ago I couldn’t have imagined the immense application spaces that this work would touch upon,” said Dionne. “For me, this project has reinforced the importance of fundamental research – you can’t always predict where fundamental science is going to go or what it’s going to lead to, but it can provide critical solutions for future challenges.”

    This innovation could also be useful in quantum science. For example, splitting photons to create entangled photons that remain connected on a quantum level even when far apart would typically require large tabletop optical experiments with big expensive precisely polished crystals. “If we can do that, but use our nanostructures to control and shape that entangled light, maybe one day we will have an entanglement generator that you can hold in your hand,” Lawrence said. “With our results, we are excited to look at the new science that’s achievable now, but also trying to push the limits of what’s possible.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stanford University campus. No image credit

    Stanford University

    Leland and Jane Stanford founded the University to “promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.” Stanford opened its doors in 1891, and more than a century later, it remains dedicated to finding solutions to the great challenges of the day and to preparing our students for leadership in today’s complex world. Stanford, is an American private research university located in Stanford, California on an 8,180-acre (3,310 ha) campus near Palo Alto. Since 1952, more than 54 Stanford faculty, staff, and alumni have won the Nobel Prize, including 19 current faculty members

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  • richardmitnick 8:18 am on August 15, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Advanced Photon Source (APS) synchrotron at Argonne, , , , , Linda Young, , Women in STEM, ,   

    From University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory: Women in STEM- “UChicago physicist leaves mark on X-ray sciences as leader, mentor” Linda Young 

    U Chicago bloc

    From University of Chicago


    Argonne Lab
    Argonne National Laboratory

    Aug 10, 2020
    Maggie Hudson

    For decades, Prof. Linda Young has made an impact both as a researcher and a mentor. She is pictured here with (left to right) Argonne colleagues Anthony DiChiara, Maria Chan and Anirudha Sumant. Photo courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory.

    Argonne’s Linda Young searches for new X-ray laser uses and ways to support junior scientists.

    Like many of us, University of Chicago physicist Linda Young is working from home these days, though her home is more unique than most.

    “We live in Enrico Fermi’s old house,” she said. “I always hope that I’ll breathe some inspiration from being in this house, but I’m not sure if I have.”

    Whether through Fermi’s inspiration or her own scientific prowess, Young—a part-time professor in UChicago’s Department of Physics—has built an impressive research career studying the interactions of X-rays with matter. She leads the atomic, molecular and optical (AMO) physics group at Argonne National Laboratory, where she previously served as the head of the X-ray Science Division—overseeing experiments at one of the world’s top X-ray sources.

    Developing X-ray lasers

    X-ray interactions with matter have a long and storied history, beginning with the discovery of X-rays in 1895. Scientists harnessed this very high energy form of light to reveal unseen secrets of our world, allowing us to glimpse the bones beneath our skin and to decode the unique arrangement of atoms that make up different molecules.

    Over the past century, scientists have continuously improved the strength of X-ray light sources and used them in new ways to understand the makeup of materials. Ten years ago, Young said, these experiments took a huge leap forward with the development of a new type of X-ray source: the X-ray free-electron laser [XFEL].

    “Now, because we have X-ray free-electron lasers, new life has been injected into the topic of X-ray interactions with matter,” Young said. “We suddenly can have X-ray pulses that are of very short duration, very short wavelength, and very high intensity.”

    At Argonne, Young plays an instrumental role in understanding how these X-ray lasers work and what they can be used for. “In our group, we work together to figure out how we can really utilize these super strong, coherent X-ray pulses to divine the secrets of matter,” she said.

    Though Young has risen through the ranks to become an expert in X-ray physics, she began her career at Argonne with a background in optical laser spectroscopy. She integrated this knowledge into the AMO physics group’s studies of atomic structure; in 1994, as the youngest scientist in the group, Young was promoted to group leader.

    Young’s tenure as group leader coincided with the opening of the Advanced Photon Source (APS) synchrotron at Argonne [below], a kilometer-long electron storage ring used as a source of bright X-ray beams. To utilize the convenience and capabilities of this world-class laboratory, the group shifted its focus to X-ray science. Young hired new team members with expertise in X-ray physics and led the design of two beamlines—X-ray laboratories within APS with unique instruments and capabilities.

    The AMO physics group pushed the boundaries of the study of X-rays’ interactions with matter, using facilities at the APS as well as other X-ray sources. The group’s success in the field and interest in powerful X-ray techniques led to their involvement with the­­­ first X-ray free-electron laser (XFEL).

    Young travels to international laboratories to do groundbreaking research with the world’s best scientists, but she notes that these experiences have more than just a scientific impact. “I think doing experiments at light sources around the world is very enriching,” she said. “You get to have insight into different international perspectives and make friends around the globe.”

    X-ray scientists compete for funding and acclaim, but when they come together at international laboratories, they work as a team to tackle big problems. Their dream, Young explained, is to use XFELs to look at complex molecules in a new way. The ultra-strong, ultra-short pulses of X-ray light should allow them to take snapshots of the locations of all the atoms in a molecule as it moves around in a solution. Putting these snapshots together could create a 3D image of a huge, complicated molecule like a protein.

    Mentoring the next generation

    Young brings these ideas back to the UChicago, where she teaches a graduate course on X-ray physics and applications. She enjoys sharing her passion for these complex experiments with students who would not typically work with advanced X-ray techniques. As she interacts with students, she adapts her course in response to their feedback and encourages students to pursue their interests through the lens of X-ray sciences.

    Prof. Linda Young (center) at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory with (left to right) Christoph Bostedt, Steve Southworth, John Bozek, Steve Pratt and Yuelin Li. (Photo by Brad Plummer/SLAC.)

    “I think it’s really invigorating to teach students because they’re so eager to learn, and you learn a lot of things from them,” said Young.

    Her willingness to learn and adapt has served her well as a mentor at both Argonne and UChicago. Young has mentored a number of junior scientists at Argonne, helping them make decisions about their career path and even assisting with connections for future job placements.

    At UChicago, she works to make the physics department supportive of all students and serves as chair of the department’s equity, diversity and inclusion committee. She coordinates seminars with speakers from underrepresented groups in the sciences and hosted the 2020 American Physical Society Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics at UChicago.

    Young notes that amidst the growing movement against systemic racism, she has realized that these previous activities to promote diversity in the department were not enough. The committee has reached out through student-led town hall meetings and seeking feedback on how they can better support minorities in physics. In the first meeting, students requested more opportunities for mentorship, and Young is excited to help them achieve their goals.

    As more student feedback comes in, Young is listening and ready to work for lasting change in the physics department. “I think that this is a really important time for committees to step up and really do something concrete. I am looking forward to doing whatever I can in my own way.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. For more visit http://www.anl.gov.

    About the Advanced Photon Source

    The U. S. Department of Energy Office of Science’s Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne National Laboratory is one of the world’s most productive X-ray light source facilities. The APS provides high-brightness X-ray beams to a diverse community of researchers in materials science, chemistry, condensed matter physics, the life and environmental sciences, and applied research. These X-rays are ideally suited for explorations of materials and biological structures; elemental distribution; chemical, magnetic, electronic states; and a wide range of technologically important engineering systems from batteries to fuel injector sprays, all of which are the foundations of our nation’s economic, technological, and physical well-being. Each year, more than 5,000 researchers use the APS to produce over 2,000 publications detailing impactful discoveries, and solve more vital biological protein structures than users of any other X-ray light source research facility. APS scientists and engineers innovate technology that is at the heart of advancing accelerator and light-source operations. This includes the insertion devices that produce extreme-brightness X-rays prized by researchers, lenses that focus the X-rays down to a few nanometers, instrumentation that maximizes the way the X-rays interact with samples being studied, and software that gathers and manages the massive quantity of data resulting from discovery research at the APS.

    This research used resources of the Advanced Photon Source, a U.S. DOE Office of Science User Facility operated for the DOE Office of Science by Argonne National Laboratory under Contract No. DE-AC02-06CH11357.
    Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science

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    One of the world’s premier academic and research institutions, the University of Chicago has driven new ways of thinking since our 1890 founding. Today, UChicago is an intellectual destination that draws inspired scholars to our Hyde Park and international campuses, keeping UChicago at the nexus of ideas that challenge and change the world.

    The University of Chicago is an urban research university that has driven new ways of thinking since 1890. Our commitment to free and open inquiry draws inspired scholars to our global campuses, where ideas are born that challenge and change the world.

    We empower individuals to challenge conventional thinking in pursuit of original ideas. Students in the College develop critical, analytic, and writing skills in our rigorous, interdisciplinary core curriculum. Through graduate programs, students test their ideas with UChicago scholars, and become the next generation of leaders in academia, industry, nonprofits, and government.

    UChicago research has led to such breakthroughs as discovering the link between cancer and genetics, establishing revolutionary theories of economics, and developing tools to produce reliably excellent urban schooling. We generate new insights for the benefit of present and future generations with our national and affiliated laboratories: Argonne National Laboratory, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

    The University of Chicago is enriched by the city we call home. In partnership with our neighbors, we invest in Chicago’s mid-South Side across such areas as health, education, economic growth, and the arts. Together with our medical center, we are the largest private employer on the South Side.

    In all we do, we are driven to dig deeper, push further, and ask bigger questions—and to leverage our knowledge to enrich all human life. Our diverse and creative students and alumni drive innovation, lead international conversations, and make masterpieces. Alumni and faculty, lecturers and postdocs go on to become Nobel laureates, CEOs, university presidents, attorneys general, literary giants, and astronauts.

  • richardmitnick 8:31 am on March 6, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Laura Haynes a paleoceanographer, , , , The month–long International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 378, Women in STEM   

    From Rutgers University: “Postdoc Laura Haynes Searching for Climate Change Clues Under the Ocean Floor” 

    Rutgers smaller
    Our Great Seal.

    From Rutgers University

    February 24, 2020 [Just now in social media.]
    Craig Winston

    Laura Haynes cruises the world searching for core samples.

    It’s hard to pinpoint where you might find Laura Haynes, an EOAS post-doctoral fellow, for an interview. During a telephone chat she sounded far away. She explained why in a subsequent email.

    “I was actually in Fiji, eating breakfast before we headed out to board the ship,” she wrote. “We are now transiting nine days to our first coring site and will be drilling to about 670 meters below the sea floor in the hopes of recovering the K/Pg boundary.”

    Translation: The Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary marks the mass extinction of the Earth’s dinosaurs more than 60 million years ago. It’s represented by a thin band of rock [Actually, it is marked all around the world by a layer of Iridium, found by Luis and Walter Alvarez].

    Haynes, a paleoceanographer, is sailing on the month–long International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 378 with a collective of scientists from countries including Australia, China, Japan, Korea, and Brazil. They staff a floating lab, covering it 24/7 on rotating 12-hour shifts. (The ship travels the world, drilling at five to eight locations on a cruise; this time there is only one stop for a long core drill.) The crew hopes that drilling into this new, unbroken core will enable them to reconstruct climate change in one location millions of years ago, revealing the answers to questions about the Earth’s climate history.

    International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 378 South Pacific Paleogene Climate.

    “It was records from ocean drilling that first showed that the ocean floor is spreading apart and causing the movement of tectonic plates, and that rapid climate change has happened in Earth’s past,” said Haynes. “While there are records of Earth history from many crucial time periods that exist on land, they are patchy and not always continuous. By contrast, sea floor muds can build up continuously and slowly over time and give us continuous records of Earth’s climate history.”

    Laura Haynes in the lab.

    Back in the lab, the scientists examine core samples from the drilling and meet twice a day to discuss their findings. Haynes’ role on the ship is as a sedimentologist; she describes the core samples that come up from the sea floor and determines their composition: fossil, clay, sand, or volcanic ash. The expedition continues long after each member returns home with samples they take back for further study. Their scientific community will stay intact as they synthesize their findings over the next few years.

    Her itinerary during the last year is an enviable one. Haynes earlier sailed on the Chilean drilling ship on a cruise to the Chile margin led by the Rutgers postdoc researcher Samantha Bova and EOAS faculty member Yair Rosenthal, both of the Department of Marine and Coast Sciences. They sought to understand how Patagonian glaciers and the South Pacific Ocean responded to climate change. “It was a huge success and a wonderful first experience on a drillship,” she said. “I am coming to understand that I was spoiled by the incredible wildlife we saw on the ship; we were encircled by albatrosses and seals for most of our expedition.”

    Her primary field of study involves using fossilized shells of plankton, “foraminifera,” to reconstruct the history of climate change. The shells are preserved in deep sea muds, and their chemical composition can indicate past climate such as ocean temperature, acidity, and circulation. “These are all things we’d like to understand so that we can better predict how modern climate change will affect the Earth system in the future.”

    Haynes was inspired to pursue a career in the sciences when she had an awakening in high school after watching “An Inconvenient Truth,” former Vice President Al Gore’s 2006 documentary intended to educate the public about global warming. After that, she intuitively understood that she wanted to dedicate her career to studying the environment.

    Haynes said: “When I got to undergrad, I was incredibly lucky in that my freshman adviser suggested I take a geology class. After going on my first few field trips, I knew that this was the field I wanted to be in, but I also knew that I wanted to apply it to understanding modern environmental change. With the study of past climate histories, I found this perfect balance.”

    Her educational background prepared her well for her research career. Haynes earned her undergraduate degree in geology from Pomona College (Claremont, Calif.), and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in Earth and Environmental Sciences from Columbia University. For her doctoral dissertation, she analyzed living foraminifera, spending two months in coastal field stations at Catalina Island, Calif., and Isla Magueyes, Puerto Rico.

    Perhaps a telltale sign of Haynes’ future came from her first job at age 14— as a counselor at a science camp for elementary students.

    “I didn’t have any idea then that I would be a scientist, but it does make a lot of sense in retrospect. “

    During her latest cruise, Haynes answered several questions about her work and life. A condensed version of her comments appears below:

    What was your best day on the job?

    In the lab, I always love a day when I get new data off the machine, knowing that I am the only person in the world that has this tiny new piece of knowledge.

    What are your career goals?

    I am incredibly excited that I will start an assistant professor position at Vassar College this fall. In my new position, I am thrilled to usher undergraduates through the research process, to conduct research on our new sediment cores, and to teach interdisciplinary classes related to oceanography, biogeochemistry, mass extinctions, and science communication.

    What’s your secret skill?

    I am very good at manipulating dust-sized microfossils with the smallest possible paintbrush. Working in paleoceanography has certainly honed my fine motor skills.
    Which professional accomplishment has given you the most pride?

    I got to mentor an undergraduate student, Ingrid Izaguirre, through a summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates project in 2018 at Columbia. She did a fantastic job and presented her findings at the American Geophysical Union conference that winter, explaining complicated ocean chemistry to interested listeners for four hours straight. I was incredibly proud of her work and presentation, and still get to see her progress as she is now a graduate student in paleoceanography.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is a leading national research university and the state’s preeminent, comprehensive public institution of higher education. Rutgers is dedicated to teaching that meets the highest standards of excellence; to conducting research that breaks new ground; and to providing services, solutions, and clinical care that help individuals and the local, national, and global communities where they live.

    Founded in 1766, Rutgers teaches across the full educational spectrum: preschool to precollege; undergraduate to graduate; postdoctoral fellowships to residencies; and continuing education for professional and personal advancement.

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  • richardmitnick 10:57 am on February 1, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Geologist Melodie French, , , , Women in STEM   

    From Rice University: Women in STEM-“Fed grant backs Rice earthquake research” Geologist Melodie French 

    Rice U bloc

    From Rice University

    January 31, 2020

    Jeff Falk

    Mike Williams

    Geologist Melodie French wins National Science Foundation CAREER Award.

    Rice University geologist Melodie French has earned a National Science Foundation CAREER Award to support her investigation of the tectonic roots of earthquakes and tsunamis. Photo by Jeff Fitlow.

    The tectonic plates of the world were mapped in 1996, USGS.

    Rice University geologist Melodie French is crushing it in her quest to understand the physics responsible for earthquakes.

    The assistant professor of Earth, environmental and planetary science has earned a prestigious CAREER Award, a five-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for $600,000 to support her investigation of the tectonic roots of earthquakes and tsunamis.

    CAREER awards support the research and educational development of young scholars likely to become leaders in their fields. The grants, among the most competitive awarded by the NSF, go to fewer than 400 scholars each year across all disciplines.

    For French, the award gives her Rice lab the opportunity to study rocks exhumed from subduction zones at plate boundaries that are often the source of megathrust earthquakes and tsunamis. Her lab squeezes rock samples to characterize the strength of the rocks deep underground where the plates meet.

    “Fundamentally, we hope to learn how the material properties of the rocks themselves control where earthquakes happen, how big one might become, what causes an earthquake to sometimes arrest after only a small amount of slip or what allows some to grow quite large,” French said.

    “A lot of geophysics involves putting out instruments to see signals that propagate to the Earth’s surface,” she said. “But we try to understand the properties of the rocks that allow these different phenomena to happen.”

    That generally involves putting rocks under extreme stress. “We squish rocks at different temperatures and pressures and at different rates while measuring force and strain in as many dimensions as we can,” French said. “That gives us a full picture of how the rocks deform under different conditions.”

    The lab conducts experiments on both exposed surface rocks that were once deep within subduction zones and rock acquired by drilling for core samples.

    Rice University geologist Melodie French and graduate student Ben Belzer work with a rock sample. French has been granted a National Science Foundation CAREER Award to study the tectonic roots of earthquakes and tsunamis. Photo by Jeff Fitlow.

    I’m working with (Rice Professor) Juli Morgan on a subduction zone off of New Zealand where they drilled through part of the fault zone and brought rock up from about 500 meters deep,” French said. “But many big earthquakes happen much deeper than we could ever drill. So we need to go into the field to find ancient subduction rocks that have somehow managed to come to the surface.”

    French is not sure if it will ever be possible to accurately predict earthquakes. “But one thing we can do is create better hazard maps to help us understand what regions should be prepared for quakes,” she said.

    French is a native of Maine who earned her bachelor’s degree at Oberlin College, a master’s at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Ph.D. at Texas A&M University.

    The award, co-funded by the NSF’s Geophysics, Tectonics and Marine Geology and Geophysics programs, will also provide inquiry-based educational opportunities in scientific instrument design and use to K-12 students as well as undergraduate and graduate-level students.

    Geologist Melodie French sets up an experiment in her Rice University lab. She has won a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, a prestigious grant given to young scholars likely to become leaders in their fields. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

    See the full article here .


    Stem Education Coalition

    Rice U campus

    In his 1912 inaugural address, Rice University president Edgar Odell Lovett set forth an ambitious vision for a great research university in Houston, Texas; one dedicated to excellence across the range of human endeavor. With this bold beginning in mind, and with Rice’s centennial approaching, it is time to ask again what we aspire to in a dynamic and shrinking world in which education and the production of knowledge will play an even greater role. What shall our vision be for Rice as we prepare for its second century, and how ought we to advance over the next decade?

    This was the fundamental question posed in the Call to Conversation, a document released to the Rice community in summer 2005. The Call to Conversation asked us to reexamine many aspects of our enterprise, from our fundamental mission and aspirations to the manner in which we define and achieve excellence. It identified the pressures of a constantly changing and increasingly competitive landscape; it asked us to assess honestly Rice’s comparative strengths and weaknesses; and it called on us to define strategic priorities for the future, an effort that will be a focus of the next phase of this process.

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