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Brookhaven National Laboratory


By Daniel Dunaief

Gregory Breit and John Wheeler were right in the 1930s and Werner Heisenberg and Hans Heinrich Euler in 1936 and John Toll in the 1950s were also right.

Breit, who was born in Russia and came to the United States in 1915, and Wheeler, who was the first American involved in the theoretical development of the atomic bomb, wrote a paper that offered theoretical ideas about how to produce mass from energy.

Breit and Wheeler suggested that colliding light particles could create pairs of electrons and their antimatter opposites, known as positrons. This idea was an extension of one of Albert Einstein’s most famous equations, E=mc2, converting pure energy into matter in its simplest form.

Zhangbu Xu in front of the time-of-flight detector, which is important for identifying the electrons and positrons the STAR Collaboration measured. Photo from BNL

Working at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory, a team of scientists in the STAR Collaboration has provided experimental proof that the ideas of some of these earlier physicists were correct.

“To create the conditions which the theory predicted, even that process is quite exhausting, but actually quite exciting,” said Zhangbu Xu, a senior scientist at BNL in the physics department.

The researchers published their results recently in Physics Review Letters, which provides a connection to Breit and Wheeler, who published their original work in a predecessor periodical called Physics Review.

While Breit and Wheeler wrote that the probability of two gamma rays colliding was “hopeless,” they suggested that accelerated heavy ions could be an alternative, which is exactly what the researchers at RHIC did.

The STAR team, for Solenoidal Tracker at RHIC, also proved another theory proposed decades ago by physicists Heisenberg, who also described the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, and Hans Heinrich Euler in 1936 and John Toll, who would later become the second president at Stony Brook University, in the 1950s.

These physicists predicted that a powerful magnetic field could polarize a vacuum of empty space. This polarized vacuum should deflect the paths of photons depending on photon polarization.

Researchers had never seen this polarization-dependent deflection, called birefringence, in a vacuum on Earth until this set of experiments.

Creating mass from energy

Xu and others started with a gold ion. Without its electrons, the 79 protons in the gold ion have a positive charge, which, when projected at high speeds, triggers a magnetic field that spirals around the particle as it travels.

Once the ion reaches a high enough speed, the strength of the magnetic field equals the strength of the perpendicular electric field. This creates a photon that hovers around the ion.

The speeds necessary for this experiment is even closer to the speed of light, at 99.995%, than ivory soap is to being pure, at 99.44%.

When the ions move past each other without colliding, the photon fields interact. The researchers studied the angular distribution patterns of each electron and its partner positron.

“We also measured all the energy, mass distribution, and quantum numbers of the system,” Daniel Brandenburg, a Goldhaber Fellow at BNL who analyzed the STAR data, said in a statement.

Even in 1934, Xu said, the researchers realized the cross section for the photons to interact was so small that it was almost impossible to create conditions necessary for such an experiment.

“Only in the last 10 years, with the new angular distribution of e-plus [positrons] and e-minus [electrons] can we say, ‘Hey, this is from the photon/ photon creation,’” Xu said.

Bending light in a vacuum

Heisenberg and Euler in 1936 and Toll in the 1950’s theorized that a powerful magnetic field could polarize a vacuum, which should deflect the paths of photons. Toll calculated in theory how the light scatters off strong magnetic fields and how that connects to the creation of the electron and positron pair, Xu explained. “That is exactly what we did almost 70 years later,” he said.

This is the first experiment on Earth that demonstrates experimentally that polarization affects the interactions of light with the magnetic field in a vacuum.

Xu explained that one of the reasons this principle hasn’t been observed often is that the effect is small without a “huge magnetic field. That’s why it was predicted many decades ago, but we didn’t observe it.”

Scientists who were a part of this work appreciated the connection to theories their famous and successful predecessors had proposed decades earlier.

“Both of these findings build on predictions made by some of the great physicists in the early 20th century,” Frank Geurts, a professor at Rice University, said in a statement. 

The work on bending light through a vacuum is a relatively new part of the research effort.

Three years ago, the scientists realized they could study this, which was a surprising moment, Xu said.

“Many of our collaborators (myself included) did not know what vacuum birefringence was a few years ago,” he said. “This is why scientific discovery is exciting. You don’t know what nature has prepared for you. Sometimes you stumble on something exciting. Sometimes, there is a null set (empty hand) in your endeavor.

Xu lives in East Setauket. His son Kevin is earning his bachelor’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is studying science and engineering. His daughter Isabel is a junior at Ward Melville High School.

As for the recent work, Xu, who earned his PhD and completed two years of postdoctoral research at Yale before coming to BNL, said he is pleased with the results.

“I’ve been working on this project for 20 years,” he said. “I have witnessed and participated in quite a few exciting discoveries RHIC has produced. These are very high on my list.”

From left, postdoctoral researcher Yunjun Zhao and Brookhaven Lab biochemist Chang-Jun Liu in a greenhouse with poplar trees. Photo from BNL

By Daniel Dunaief

Plants not only make our food, produce the oxygen we breathe, and provide key ingredients in medicines, but they could also contribute chemicals that might otherwise require fossil fuels to produce.

Scientists have known since 1955 that poplar trees produce small amounts of a product called p-hydroxybenzoic acid that they attach to the lignin in their cell walls. What they didn’t know, however, was how they were attached.

After years of cloning genes and, more recently, using the gene editing tool CRISPR, Chang-Jun Liu, a plant biochemist at Brookhaven National Laboratory, and collaborators in Japan discovered the gene that codes for an enzyme that catalyzes the attachment of pBA to the lignin.

Up to now, companies have produced pBA by using fossil fuels as raw materials and for the energy required to generate enough heat and pressure for the catalytic reactions.

This discovery, which Liu published in the journal Nature Plants, could provide a more eco-friendly way to produce a chemical involved in the manufacture of toothpaste, shampoos, commercial moisturizers, shaving gels, and spray tanning solutions, among other products.

The global market value of p-hydroxybenzoic acid was $59 million in 2020 and is expected to climb to $80 million in the next five years.

“We wanted to identify the enzyme that is responsible for attaching pBA into lignin and reconstitute this pathway and promote its storage in the cell wall,” Liu said. Ideally, he’d like to combine the pathways that produce the donor molecule containing pBA with their enzyme to promote pBA storage in cell walls.

Once Liu found the gene responsible for that enzyme, he did what scientists typically do to check on the importance of a genetic sequence: first, he knocked it out and second, he overexpressed it.

By knocking out the genetic sequence, he found that poplar trees stopped producing pBA. Overexpressing the gene, on the other hand, not only increased the amount of this chemical by about 48 percent, but also raised the strength of the lignin and, consequently, the durability of the cell wall.

Aside from the benefit of increasing the natural production of the chemical, changing the amount of pBA could have implications for the environment and industry. Less durable lignin, which has a lower amount of pBA, could be useful in producing pulp, paper and biofuel, making it easier to access the biomass of the wood.

More durable lignin could be useful in the timber industry, while also enabling the plant to remove more carbon, mostly in the form of carbon dioxide, from the air.

“If we can engineer the plant to produce more of this carbon-dense compound, … particularly in the root, we can fix more carbon into the underground fraction, which will absorb more carbon from the air to promote carbon sequestration,” Liu said.

A long process

The work that led to identifying the gene that codes for the enzyme that attaches pBA to lignin took about 15 years.

Liu knew this enzyme worked to attach pBA, among other chemicals, in a test tube, but the journey to prove its importance in the poplar trees took considerable work.

Liu cloned 20 genes that are expressed in woody tissues and encoded enzymes called acyltransferases. While expressing these enzymes, he mixed them with an isotope-labeled carbon, which allowed him to check to see whether the enzyme contributed to the process of attaching pBA to lignin.

He tried using RNA interference to knock down the targeted gene, but that didn’t work.

The breakthrough that established the importance of this gene came when Liu used CRISPR. 

Next steps

Scientists aren’t sure of the specific steps or even why plants produce pBA in the first place.

Plants produce pBA through the shikimate pathway, but the exact routes leading to pBA formation are still undiscovered. 

As for why plants produce pBA, one hypothesis is that the plant uses a higher amount as a defense mechanism, making its lignin harder to remove for an insect. It could also provide resistance to mechanical stress caused by wind or snow.

“We do not have solid evidence to prove that,” he said, but “we need to explore that further.”

Liu also hopes to take a synthetic biology approach to build a more effective pathway by using the enzyme to make the plant a partner in producing pBA and in capturing and storing organic carbon.

The biochemist hopes to find a commercial partner who might be interested in exploring the development of a process that occurs naturally in poplar trees.

The environmental impact of increasing pBA in plants on the ecology of the areas in which these poplar trees might grow is unclear.

“We do not know at this moment whether this will benefit or be harmful to the soil microbial community,” he said. “In some cases, it can help the plant absorb more nutrients. It potentially can also kill other microbial life.”

For the plant, it’s unclear what the effect of higher pBA might be. The enzyme Liu identified moves pBA from inside the cell to the cell where, which would likely mitigate any toxicity because that is dead material. 

“We expect the increase of cell wall-bound pBA should promote the trees’ ability in withstanding environmental changes,” he explained.

Altering the cell’s metabolic processes by rebuilding a new pathway that produces high amounts of pBA could negatively affect a tree’s normal growth. Liu would need to conduct more experiments to explore this possible effect.

A resident of Rocky Point, Liu lives with his wife Yang Chen, who is a special education teacher assistant at Rocky Point Middle School. Their son Allen is in his third year at Purdue University, while Bryant is in his second year at the University of Southern California. The family enjoys skiing and hiking trips.

The work to confirm the link between the gene and the production of pBA involved numerous post doctoral researchers.

Liu appreciates the effort of his research team over the years. “I’m very happy that we were finally able to resolve this issue,” he said.

Alex Harris. Photo from BNL

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory has named Alex Harris as Director of the Lab’s Energy Sciences Department, effective May 1, 2021. The announcement was made in a June 21 press release.

In his new position, Harris will manage several divisions of the Laboratory, including the Center for Functional Nanomaterials, the Chemistry Division, and the Condensed Matter Physics and Materials Science Division. Together, these divisions conduct fundamental research on advanced energy technologies and clean energy solutions, spanning from electric vehicle batteries to artificial photosynthesis, as well as research on quantum materials and nanomaterials to advance quantum information science.

“The Energy Sciences Department has leading scientists in chemical, materials, and nanosciences working together on problems that address DOE and national priorities in energy and quantum science,” Harris said. “Those are topics of rising national importance and there are exciting opportunities ahead. I’m honored to lead the Department to continue developing those themes and to strengthen collaborations with other departments, particularly with the National Synchrotron Light Source II, which is a key partner in much of our research.”

Beginning in September 2020, Harris simultaneously handled the role of Interim Energy Sciences Director and his regular role as Chair of the Chemistry Division, which he has held since 2003. As Chemistry Chair, Harris made significant contributions to the Lab’s vision for sustainable energy conversion. He will now continue as Acting Chair of the Chemistry Division while the Lab conducts a search for a new chair.

“The Chemistry Division is at the center of Brookhaven’s fundamental research on clean energy solutions. It has been rewarding to work with the division scientists to develop programs that address important national needs and are producing some great science. Chemistry has a family spirit and I look forward to continue working with people in the division in my new role,” Harris said.

Harris originally came to Brookhaven from Agere Systems, where he was Director of the Guided Wave and Electro-optics Research Department. His early career was at AT&T’s Bell Laboratories, where he became department head of Materials Chemistry Research. Harris earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley and a B.A. in Chemistry from Swarthmore College.

Brookhaven National Laboratory is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science.

Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton hosted a virtual Elementary Science Fair awards ceremony on June 4. Suffolk County students from kindergarten through sixth grade who garnered first place and honorable mentions in the 2021 Elementary Science Fair Competition were honored. 

Volunteer judges considered a total 184 science projects by students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Seven students earned first place in their grade level for stand-out experiments Fifteen students received honorable mentions for their experiments. Students qualify for Brookhaven Lab’s competition by winning science fairs held by their schools.

Students who earned first place in their grade level received medals and ribbons, along with banners to hang at their school to recognize the achievement. Here are the winners and their projects:

Kindergartener Violet Radonis of Pines Elementary, Hauppauge Public Schools, “Which Mask You Ask? I Am on the Task.” 

First grader Ashleigh Bruno, Ocean Avenue Elementary, Northport-East Northport Union Free School District, “Rain, Rain Go Away” 

Second grader Celia Gaeta, Miller Avenue School, Shoreham-Wading River Central School District, “How the Moon Phases Affect Our Feelings”       

Third grader Emerson Gaeta, Fort Salonga Elementary, Kings Park Central School District, “Can You Hear Me Through My Mask?” 

Fourth grader Matthew Mercorella, Sunrise Drive Elementary, Sayville Public Schools, “Shh…I Can’t Hear” 

Fifth grader Grace Rozell, Ocean Avenue School, Northport-East Northport Union Free School District, “Edible Experiments” 

Sixth grader Patrick Terzella, Hauppauge Middle School, Hauppauge Public Schools, “Too Loud or Not Too Loud?”

View all science fair projects: https://flic.kr/p/2kZPtqY

Finding fun in the scientific process

This is the second year that the Office of Educational Programming (OEP) at Brookhaven Lab organized a virtual science fair to ensure that local students had the opportunity to participate safely amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Each year, the competition offers thousands of students a chance to gain experience — and have fun — applying the scientific method. The Brookhaven Lab event recognizes the achievement of the students in winning their school fair and acknowledges the best of these projects.

“The Brookhaven Lab Elementary School Science Fair encourages students to utilize the scientific method and answer a question that they have independently developed,” said Amanda Horn, a Brookhaven Lab educator who coordinated the virtual science fair. 

Students tackled a wide range of questions with their experiments, including exploring how the moon phases affect our feelings to testing different materials, investigating how to improve their at-home internet connection, and finding safe masks for their friends and families.

First grader Ashleigh Bruno, who garnered a top spot for an experiment on acid rain, evaluated the pH levels in local water sources to learn if animals could live safely within them. 

“I was really happy because I learned how to test the water and it was really fun to do with my family,” Bruno said.

Third grader Emerson Gaeta explored whether wearing a frame with different kinds of face masks could improve how we hear people who are speaking while wearing a mask. She used a foam head equipped with a speaker to measure how loud sounds came through the masks.

“I was here once before and I didn’t win,” Gaeta said. “Now I won first place so I’m really happy about that.”

Fourth grader Matthew Mercorella said he was excited to learn of his first-place win for his experiment seeking to find the best sound-proofing material. He found the best part of his project to be the process of testing materials by playing music through a speaker placed inside of them to see which put out the lowest and highest decibels.

“It encourages the students to think like a scientist and share their results with others,” said Horn. “Our goal is to provide students with an opportunity to show off their skills and share what they have learned.”

Honorable Mentions:

Carmen Pirolo, Bellerose Avenue Elementary, Northport-East Northport Union Free School District, “Egg Shells and Toothpaste Experiment”
Filomena Saporita, Ocean Avenue Elementary, Northport-East Northport Union Free School District, “Rainbow Celery”

First Grade
Evelyn Van Winckel, Fort Salonga Elementary, Kings Park Central School District, “Is Your Mouth Cleaner Than A Dog’s?”
Taran Sathish Kumar, Bretton Woods Elementary, Hauppauge Public School District, “Scratch and Slide”

Second Grade
Luke Dinsman, Dickinson Avenue School, Northport-East Northport Union Free School District, “What Makes a Car Go Fast?”
Adam Dvorkin, Pulaski Road School, Northport-East Northport Union Free School District, “Salty Sourdough”
Lorenzo Favuzzi, Ivy League School, “Prime Time”

Third Grade
Ethan Behrens, Tangier Smith Elementary, William Floyd School District, “Deadliest Catch”
Anna Conrad, Dayton Avenue School, Eastport-South Manor Central School District, “Hello Paper Straws”

Fourth Grade
Michael Boyd, Cherry Avenue Elementary, Sayville Public Schools, “Utility Baby”
Michaela Bruno, Ocean Avenue Elementary, Northport-East Northport Union Free School District, “Weak Wi-Fi, Booster Benefit”

Fifth Grade
Hailey Conrad, Dayton Avenue School, Eastport-South Manor Central School District, “Breathing Plants”
Rebecca Bartha, Raynor Country Day School, “Natural Beauty Makes a Better Buffer”
Colin Pfeiffer, Tamarac Elementary, Sachem Central School District, “Turn Up the Heat”

Sixth Grade
Akhil Grandhi, Hauppauge Middle School, Hauppauge Public School District, “Which Fruit or Vegetable Oxidizes the Most in Varied Temperature?”

For more information, visit www.bnl.gov.

Chemistry photos for battery press release
A team of researchers led by chemists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory has studied an elusive property in cathode materials, called a valence gradient, to understand its effect on battery performance. The findings, published in Nature Communications, demonstrated that the valence gradient can serve as a new approach for stabilizing the structure of high-nickel-content cathodes against degradation and safety issues.

High-nickel-content cathodes have captured the attention of scientists for their high capacity, a chemical property that could power electric vehicles over much longer distances than current batteries support. Unfortunately, the high nickel content also causes these cathode materials to degrade more quickly, creating cracks and stability issues as the battery cycles.

In search of solutions to these structural problems, scientists have synthesized materials made with a nickel concentration gradient, in which the concentration of nickel gradually changes from the surface of the material to its center, or the bulk. These materials have exhibited greatly enhanced stability, but scientists have not been able to determine if the concentration gradient alone was responsible for the improvements. The concentration gradient has traditionally been inseparable from another effect called the valence gradient, or a gradual change in nickel’s oxidation state from the surface of the material to the bulk.

In the new study led by Brookhaven Lab, chemists at DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory synthesized a unique material that isolated the valence gradient from the concentration gradient.

“We used a very unique material that included a nickel valence gradient without a nickel concentration gradient,” said Brookhaven chemist Ruoqian Lin, first author of the study. “The concentration of all three transition metals in the cathode material was the same from the surface to the bulk, but the oxidation state of nickel changed. We obtained these properties by controlling the material’s atmosphere and calcination time during synthesis. With sufficient calcination time, the stronger bond strength between manganese and oxygen promotes the movement of oxygen into the material’s core while maintaining a Ni2+ oxidation state for nickel at the surface, forming the valence gradient.”

Once the chemists successfully synthesized a material with an isolated valence gradient, the Brookhaven researchers then studied its performance using two DOE Office of Science user facilities at Brookhaven Lab—the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) and the Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN).

At NSLS-II, an ultrabright x-ray light source, the team leveraged two cutting-edge experimental stations, the Hard X-ray Nanoprobe (HXN) beamline and the Full Field X-ray Imaging (FXI) beamline. By combining the capabilities of both beamlines, the researchers were able to visualize the atomic-scale structure and chemical makeup of their sample in 3-D after the battery operated over multiple cycles.

“Both beamlines have world-leading capabilities. You can’t do this research anywhere else,” said Yong Chu, leader of the imaging and microscopy program at NSLS-II and lead beamline scientist at HXN. “FXI is the fastest nanoscale beamline in the world; it’s about ten times faster than any other competitor. HXN is much slower, but it’s much more sensitive—it’s the highest resolution x-ray imaging beamline in the world.”

HXN beamline scientist Xiaojing Huang added, “At HXN, we routinely run measurements in multimodality mode, which means we collect multiple signals simultaneously. In this study, we used a fluorescence signal and a phytography signal to reconstruct a 3-D model of the sample at the nanoscale. The florescence channel provided the elemental distribution, confirming the sample’s composition and uniformity. The phytography channel provided high-resolution structural information, revealing any microcracks in the sample.”

Meanwhile at FXI, “the beamline showed how the valence gradient existed in this material. And because we conducted full-frame imaging at a very high data acquisition rate, we were able to study many regions and increase the statistical reliability of the study,” Lin said.

At the CFN Electron Microscopy Facility, the researchers used an advanced transmission electron microscope (TEM) to visualize the sample with ultrahigh resolution. Compared to the x-ray studies, the TEM can only probe a much smaller area of the sample and is therefore less statistically reliable across the whole sample, but in turn, the data are far more detailed and visually intuitive.

By combining the data collected across all of the different facilities, the researchers were able to confirm the valence gradient played a critical role in battery performance. The valence gradient “hid” the more capacitive but less stable nickel regions in the center of the material, exposing only the more structurally sound nickel at the surface. This important arrangement suppressed the formation of cracks.

The researchers say this work highlights the positive impact concentration gradient materials can have on battery performance while offering a new, complementary approach to stabilize high-nickel-content cathode materials through the valence gradient.

“These findings give us very important guidance for future novel material synthesis and design of cathode materials, which we will apply in our studies going forward,” Lin said.

This study was a collaborative effort among several universities and DOE laboratories, including research teams involved in DOE’s Battery500 Consortium, which aims to make lithium-metal battery cells with an energy density of 500 watt-hours per kilogram, more than double the energy density of today’s state-of-the-art batteries. The research was supported by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Vehicle Technologies Office and DOE’s Office of Science. Additional x-ray experiments were carried out at the Advanced Light Source (ALS) and the Advanced Photon Source (APS), two DOE Office of Science user facilities that are located at DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory, respectively. Operations at NSLS-II, CFN, ALS, and APS are supported by the Office of Science.

Brookhaven National Laboratory is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science.

Dié Wang

Three scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory have been selected by DOE’s Office of Science to receive significant funding through its Early Career Research Program.

The program, now in its 12th year, supports exceptional scientists during the crucial years when many do their most formative work in the agency’s priority research areas. These awards are part of DOE’s longstanding efforts to support critical research at the nation’s universities and National Labs, grow a skilled STEM workforce, and cement America as a global leader in science and innovation.

“Maintaining our nation’s braintrust of world-class scientists and researchers is one of DOE’s top priorities—and that means we need to give them the resources they need to succeed early on in their careers,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “These awardees show exceptional potential to help us tackle America’s toughest challenges and secure our economic competitiveness for decades to come.”

A total of 83 awardees represent 41 universities and 11 DOE National Laboratories in 32 states—including five universities that are receiving funding for the first time under this award. Researchers based at DOE National Labs will receive grants for $500,000 per year. The research grants are distributed over five years and will cover salary and research expenses.

The Early Career Research Program is funded by DOE’s Office of Science, which has awarded millions in funding over the past month to grow a skilled, diverse STEM workforce—including $11.7 million for undergraduate and community college STEM internships and faculty research opportunities, and $2.4 million for graduate student research opportunities.

A list of all 83 awardees, their institutions, and titles of research projects is available on the Early Career Research Program webpage. [https://science.osti.gov/early-career]

This year’s Brookhaven Lab awardees include:

Dié Wang, “Understanding Deep Convective Cloud Kinematic Processes and Their Responses to Aerosols”

Dié Wang

Dié Wang, an assistant atmospheric scientist in Brookhaven Lab’s Environmental and Climate Sciences Department, will receive funding through the DOE’s Office of Science’s Biological and Environmental Research program. Her research project aims to fill knowledge gaps in our understanding of the lifecycle of deep convective clouds (DCCs)–the type of clouds present during thunderstorms–and how aerosols, tiny solid or liquid particles suspended in the atmosphere such as pollutants or sea spray, impact these systems.

Ultimately, the goal is to improve the representation of DCCs in Earth system models and the predictability of the water cycle.

DCCs are an important part of Earth’s water cycle that produce a significant portion of the global precipitation, regulate the global energy cycle, and drive large-scale atmospheric circulation that impacts climate sensitivity. Despite the critical role DDCs play in weather and climate, especially in the tropics and midlatitudes, their accurate simulation in state-of-the-art models remains extremely challenging.

“The interactions between aerosols and deep convection are very poorly understood for a number of reasons, one being that we don’t have a lot of key supporting observations of the processes going inside of the clouds during these interactions,” Wang said.

To overcome uncertainties found in climate models, the project will use advanced ground-based and satellite measurements to better observe cloud properties.

Wang and her team will also use machine learning techniques and high-resolution modeling to identify cause-and-effect links between aerosols, the environment, and convective vigor. They will examine DCCs in four different climate regions: the Southern Great Plains, Gulf Coast, the Amazon, and the mountains of Argentina.

“It means a lot to see this research funded,” Wang said. “I have a lot of responsibilities in managing this project, but it offers a good challenge. This is also a booster to my confidence in the research because it means people loved my ideas for the project. I had lots of support from folks at Brookhaven and other agencies to get to this point.”

Wang first joined Brookhaven Lab as a research associate in 2017. She currently serves as an instrument mentor for the gauges and disdrometers operated by the DOE Atmosphere Radiation Measurement Program.

Wang received her undergraduate degree in atmospheric science in 2010 and an M.S. in meteorology in 2013, both from Nanjing University of Information Science & Technology. She received a PhD in physics from the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in 2016.

Gregory Doerk, “Adaptive Synthesis of Nanoporous Membranes by Pathway-Directed Self-Assembly”

Gregory Doerk

Gregory Doerk is a materials scientist in the Electronic Nanomaterials Group of the Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN)—a DOE Office of Science User Facility at Brookhaven National Laboratory. Since joining the CFN in 2015, he has been leveraging the unique ability of some materials to self-assemble into organized molecular patterns and structures. Ultimately, the goal is to use these nanoscale architectures to control material properties for energy applications.

Through the DOE’s Early Career Research Program, Doerk will develop a new, transformative manufacturing strategy—pathway-directed self-assembly—to produce high-performance separation membranes for water purification. This research project is motivated by the global issues of water scarcity and pollution and the energy-intensive nature of current industrial separation processes.

Current membranes exhibit randomly oriented nanopores with a large size distribution, which severely limits their performance. Doerk will adapt spray-based processes, already adopted in industry for other applications, to direct the synthesis of self-assembled polymer membranes with well-aligned and uniformly sized nanopores. At the CFN, he will build an ultrasonic sprayer that uses high-frequency vibrations to deposit materials with controlled compositions on different substrates. As the polymer self-assembles, different spray processing parameters will be tuned to elucidate their effect on critical membrane structural properties, including pore morphology, orientation, and degree of order. To perform this real-time characterization, Doerk will integrate the sprayer with x-ray scattering beamlines at the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II)—another DOE Office of Science User Facility at Brookhaven. Employing a fully autonomous workflow developed at Brookhaven with collab
orators will accelerate the discovery of self-assembly pathways and identify those that provide the desired membrane functionality.

“Membranes are very sensitive to the way they’re made,” said Doerk. “Instead of relying on conventional trial and error, this project aims to introduce adaptive manufacturing processes by characterizing the properties of the synthesized materials in situ and adjusting the spray parameters—such as flow rate and solvent composition—on the fly. Receiving the Early Career award is a great honor and provides a unique opportunity to pursue this research with important technological applications.”

Doerk received a PhD and bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, and Case Western University, respectively.

Mengjia Gaowei, “Cathode R&D for High-Intensity Electron Source in Support of EIC”

Mengjia Gaowei

Mengjia Gaowei, an associate scientist in Brookhaven Lab’s Collider-Accelerator Department, will receive Early Career Award funding from DOE’s Office of Nuclear Physics to conduct research and development of a cathode for a high-intensity electron source in support of the future Electron-Ion Collider (EIC). This work will be essential for accelerating a beam of electrons that will be used to cool the ion beam at the EIC, a future nuclear physics research facility to be built at Brookhaven Lab.

As ions travel around the EIC at close to the speed of light they will tend to heat up and spread out. That reduces the chances of collisions between the ions and a counter-circulating beam of electrons. Scientists need to study many electron-ion interactions to learn about the internal building blocks of matter. So they are exploring ways to keep the ions tightly packed.

Gaowei’s work relates to an approach that uses cooling techniques—for example, where a separate accelerated beam of electrons mixes for a brief period with the ion beam to extract the heat from the spreading ions, much like the liquid coolant in a home refrigerator. She’ll conduct research on materials for a photocathode electron gun that will accelerate those cooling electrons. The goal is to find materials that, when activated by a laser, will produce a beam of high-brightness, high-current electrons that can be “bunched” to meet up with the bunches of ions circulating in the EIC. Her project will explore different methods to fabricate large single crystal photocathodes to improve their lifetime and other properties. She’ll use various methods, including x-ray studies at Brookhaven’s National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II), to study the materials’ crystal structure, bulk and surface properties, and chemical compositions. The aim is to identify the optimal characteristics f
or producing high-performance cathodes that will have a long lifetime—so they don’t need to be replaced frequently when the EIC is running.

“I’m truly honored to receive the Early Career Award and I’m grateful to be given this unique opportunity,” said Gaowei. “I’m looking forward to making new discoveries in the field of photocathode materials and supporting the electron source R&D for the EIC.”

Gaowei has been working on photocathode development for a low-energy electron cooling application at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC)—a DOE Office of Science user facility for nuclear physics research. “I was delighted to see its success in the world’s first demonstration of bunched-beam electron cooling,” she said. “I believe my experience in that low-energy RHIC electron cooling project will be a great help in fulfilling the tasks in the cathode research for the EIC, and I’m really looking forward to the exciting research that is sure to come out of this new machine.”

Gaowei received her bachelor’s degree in applied physics at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in 2006, a master’s in condensed matter physics from the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2009, and her PhD in materials science and engineering from Stony Brook University in 2014. She then joined Brookhaven Lab as a postdoctoral fellow conducting photocathode research, was promoted to assistant scientist in 2018, and associate scientist in 2021. She has more than 10 years of experience in semiconductor photocathode development, including multi-alkali antimonide, cesium telluride, Superlattice-GaAs (SL-GaAs) photocathodes and diamond electron amplifiers. She holds one patent with a second one pending. She was a 2016 R&D 100 Award finalist for work on an ultra-compact diamond x-ray monitor.

Brookhaven National Laboratory is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://www.energy.gov/science/.

From left, Shawn Serbin, Scott Giangrande and Chongai Kuang. Photo from Brookhaven National Laboratory

By Daniel Dunaief

Chongai Kuang is doing considerably more than standing in the middle of various fields throughout the southeast, looking up into the sky, sticking his finger in the air and taking notes on the potential appeal of the area.

Entrusted with finding the right spot for the third ARM Mobile Facility, or AMF3, Kuang, who is an Atmospheric Scientist in the Environmental & Climate Sciences Department at Brookhaven National Laboratory, is gathering considerable amounts of information about different areas in the southeast.

In March of 2023, the ARM3 mobile facility, which has been operating in Oliktok Point, Alaska, will have a new home, where it can gather information about atmospheric convection, land-atmosphere interactions and aerosol processes.

In addition to finding the right location for this facility, Kuang will coordinate with the larger science community to make recommendations to ARM for observations, measurements, instruments and sampling strategies. Observations from these fixed and mobile facilities will improve and inform earth system models.

Kuang would like to find a strategic place for the AMF3 that is “climactically relevant to provide important observations on clouds, aerosols, and land atmosphere interactions that are needed to answer science drivers” important in the southeastern United States, Kuang said. These facilities will help researchers understand how all these atmospheric phenomena interact with solar radiation and the Earth’s surface.

The AMF3 should provide information that informs climate, regional and weather models.

In 2018, the Department of Energy, which funds BNL and 16 other national laboratories, held a mobile facility workshop to determine where to move the AMF3. The group chose the Southeastern United States because it has atmospheric convection, high vegetative-driven emissions and strong coupling of the land surface with the atmosphere. This area also experiences severe weather including tornadoes and hurricanes, which have significant human and socioeconomic impacts, said Kuang.

The most violent weather in the area often “tests the existing infrastructure,” Kuang said. “This deployment can provide critical observations and data sets,” in conjunction with regional operational observational networks.

Atmospheric phenomena as a whole in the southeastern United States includes processes and interactions that span spatial scales ranging from nanometers to hundreds of kilometers and time scales spanning seconds to days.

Kuang’s primary research interests over the past decade has focused on aerosol processes at nanometer scales, as he has studied the kinds of miniature aerosol particles that form the nuclei for cloud formation. These aerosols affect cloud lifetime and spatial distribution.

“Our research is challenged by disparate scales relevant to phenomena we’re trying to characterize, from nanometers to the length scale of convective systems, which are tens of kilometers or even larger,” Kuang said. These scales also present opportunities to study coupled science with convection, aerosol and land-atmosphere interactions.

The ARM observatories around the world provide atmospheric observations of aerosols, clouds, precipitation and radiation to inform and improve Earth system models.

“We are going to leverage as much as we can of the existing networks,” Kuang said. The ARM has a fixed site in Oklahoma, which provides data for the Southern Great Plains Site, or SGP. The Southeastern site, wherever it winds up, will provide a context for large-scale atmospheric phenomena.

The way aerosols, clouds and weather systems form and change presents a challenge and an opportunity for research stations like AMF3, which will seek to connect phenomenon at spatial and time scales that affect where Kuang and his team hope to locate the site.

Kuang is also staying abreast of the latest technology and is also contributing to the development of these capabilities. The technology the AMF3 may use could be developed between now and when the site starts gathering data.

“We have the opportunity now to start thinking about what the next generation measurement capabilities and emerging technologies are that could be operational in 2023,” he said. “We are in conversations with the broader community and with different vendors and with a number of different investigators who are developing new technologies.”

Researchers hope to understand the coupling between the land surface and atmospheric phenomenon. “That will have feedback on radiation and precipitation and the impact on land-surface interactions,” Kuang explained. The current plan is for the new facility to operate for about five years.

While Kuang is focused on the scientific drivers for the site selection, he has also been exploring the dynamic with potential research partners, including universities, seeking ways to add educational partners.

“We have hopes and plans for this kind of deliberate, targeted outreach within the region,” Kuang said. “We want to organize activities like summer school, to provide young scientists with primers and an introduction about how observations are made within their backyard.”

The work he’s trying to do now is “setting the table and preparing the soil for the eventual siting” of the station.

Kuang will measure his success if the new site improves poorly represented model processes.

Once the DOE chooses a site, Kuang plans to develop and execute an initial science plan that uses AMF3 observations. As an ARM instrument mentor, he will also be responsible for a set of instruments that measure aerosol size and concentration.

A resident of Wading River, Kuang started working at BNL in 2009 as a postdoctoral researcher. When he’s not working, he describes cooking as “therapeutic,” as he and his wife, Anyi Hsueh, who is a psychiatric nurse practitioner, have explored Southeastern Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines.

Kuang is working with Associate Ecologist Shawn Serbin and Meteorologist Scott Giangrande, in site selection. The work presents an “important responsibility and our site science team envisions the AMF3 southeastern united States [site] to enable transformational science,” he said.

Katherine Liang of Paul J. Gelinas Junior High School with the bridge that earned her first place in BNL’s annual Bridge Building Contest

Sometimes the term building bridges takes on a more literal meaning. 

David Liang of Ward Melville High School placed second in the bridge building contest.

The Office of Educational Programs (OEP) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory announced local students who earned the top spots in both the  2021 Bridge Building Contest and 2021 Maglev Competition during an online awards ceremony on April 16.

Each competition, held virtually this year, offers students a hands-on opportunity to apply math, science, and technology principles as they design and build bridges and magnetic levitation cars.

“Conceiving, designing, and building the one-of-a-kind facilities at Brookhaven National Laboratory takes extraordinary vision on the part of our scientists and our engineers to advance our science mission,” said OEP Manager Kenneth White. 

“These two competitions test the design and analytical skill of contestants to create bridges and vehicles to exacting specifications and performance expectations much like our facilities demand of our staff. We hope some of these contestants will be our staff one day to take on another engineering challenge supporting extraordinary discoveries.”

Bridge Building Competition

Victor Prchlik of Ward Melville High School took third place in the bridge building contest.

In the annual Bridge Building Contest, high school students became engineers competing to construct the most efficient model bridge out of lightweight wood. Efficiency is calculated from the bridge’s weight and the weight the bridge can hold before breaking or bending more than one inch. The higher the efficiency, the better the design and construction.

Dedicated Brookhaven Lab staff engineers and technicians tested 40 qualifying structures during a live online event on April 8.

Katherine Liang, a 9th grade student of Paul J. Gelinas Junior High School earned first place with a bridge that weighed 18.7 grams, supported 38.6 pounds. The bridge earned an efficiency of 936.29.

For some students, a trial-and-error process was key to solidifying a design. Liang said she built and tested five bridges by weighing them down with a bucket of sand before submitting her final winning structure.

Second place went to David Liang of Ward Melville High School, whose bridge weighed 19 grams, held 36.4 pounds had an efficiency of 868.98.

Victor Prchlik, also from Ward Melville High School, placed third with a bridge that weighed 23.7 and supported 44.5 pounds with an efficiency of 851.87

Jonathan Chung of Smithtown East High School won this year’s Aesthetic Award.

“The whole process was fun from start to finish,” Chung said. “One of the most challenging parts was getting the glue to stick the wood together. I ended up solving that problem by using a hairdryer to dry it.”

This year’s Bridge Building Contest Aesthetic Award went to Jonathan Chung of Smithtown East High School, pictured with physics teacher Dr. Gillian Winters.

Brookhaven Lab staff tested magnetic levitation cars built by students from Island Trees Middle School and Bay Shore Middle School to see who came up with the fastest design.

MAGLEV Contest

This year’s Maglev Contest for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students included two main categories for speed and appearance. Brookhaven Lab staff tested 21 maglev cars for speed on a fixed gravity track–13 of which reached the finish line.

Brady Leichtman of Bay Shore Middle School won first place in the speed category.

Second place went to Isabella Rouleau of Bay Shore Middle School. Jesse Bonura of Island Trees Middle School placed third and also won the top spot in the competition’s appearance category with a futuristic blue car. Bay Shore Middle School students Amber Marquez and Andrea Romero, placed second and third in the appearance category, respectively.

Brookhaven Lab staff tested magnetic levitation cars to see who came up with the fastest design. Bonura found that part of the fun was testing and reengineering the maglev’s design. “We’d make it quicker and test it over and over again to make it perfect,” Bonura said.

The maglev contest is based on research by two Brookhaven engineers, the late Gordon Danby and James Powell, who invented and patented maglev technology—the suspension, guidance, and propulsion of vehicles by magnetic forces.

Magnetic properties give the maglev trains their extraordinary capabilities for speed and stability. These same principles—using magnetic forces to move matter — are used in world-class research facilities at Brookhaven Lab, including the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) and the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) — which are both DOE Office of Science user facilities. Magnetic properties allow the machines to move particles at nearly the speed of light for research purposes.

Brookhaven National Laboratory is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science.

Photos courtesy of BNL

From left, atmospheric scientists Andrew Vogelmann, Edward Luke, Fan Yang, and Pavlos Kollias explored the origins of secondary ice — and snow. Photo from BNL

By Daniel Dunaief

Clouds are as confounding, challenging and riveting to researchers as they are magnificent, inviting and mood setting for artists and film makers.

A team of researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory and Stony Brook University recently solved one of the many mysteries hovering overhead.

Some specific types of clouds, called mixed-phase clouds, produce considerably more ice particles than expected. For those clouds, it is as if someone took an empty field, put down enough seeds for a thin covering of grass and returned months later to find a fully green field.

Ed Luke, Atmospheric Scientist in the Environmental Sciences Department at Brookhaven National Laboratory, Andy Vogelmann, Atmospheric Scientist and Technical Co-manager of the BNL Cloud Processes Group, Fan Yang, a scientist at BNL, and Pavlos Kollias, a professor at Stony Brook University and Atmospheric Scientist at BNL, recently published a study of those clouds in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“There are times when the research aircraft found far more ice particles in the clouds than can be explained by the number of ice nucleating particles,” Vogelmann wrote in an email. “Our paper examines two common mechanisms by which the concentrations of ice particles can substantially increase and, for the first time, provides observational evidence quantifying that one is more common” over a polar site.

With a collection of theoretical, modeling and data collecting fire power, the team amassed over six years worth of data from millimeter-wavelength Doppler radar at the Department of Energy’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement facility in the town of Utqiagvik, which was previously called Barrow, in the state of Alaska.

The researchers developed software to sort through the particles in the clouds, grouping them by size and shape and matching them with the data from weather balloons that went up at the same time. They studied the number of secondary ice needles produced under various conditions.

The scientists took about 100 million data points and had to trim them down to find the right conditions. “We culled the data set by many dimensions to get the ones that are right to capture the process,” Luke explained.

The dataset required supercooled conditions, in which liquid droplets at sub-freezing temperatures came in contact with a solid particle, in this case ice, that initiated the freezing process.

Indeed, shattering ice particles become the nuclei for additional ice, becoming the equivalent of the venture capitalist’s hoped for investment that produces returns that build on themselves.

“When an ice particle hits one of those drizzle drops, it triggers freezing, which first forms a solid ice shell around the drop,” Yang explained in a press release. “Then, as the freezing moves inward, the pressure starts to build because water expands as it freezes. That pressure causes the drizzle drop to shatter, generating more ice particles.”

Luke described Yang as the “theory wizard on the ice processes and nucleation” and appreciated the opportunity to solve the mechanism involved in this challenging problem.

“It’s like doing detective work,” said Luke. The pictures were general in the beginning and became more detailed as the group focused and continued to test them.

Cloud processes are the biggest cause for differences in future predictions of climate models, Vogelmann explained. After clouds release their precipitation, they can dissipate. Without clouds, the sunlight reaches the surface, where it is absorbed, particularly in darker surfaces like the ocean. This absorption causes surface heating that can affect the local environment.

Energy obtained from microscopic or submicroscopic processes, such as the absorption of sunlight at the molecular level or the energy released or removed through the phase changes of water during condensation, evaporation or freezing, drive the climate.

“While something at microscales (or less) might not sound important, they ultimately power the heat engine that drives our climate,” said Vogelmann.

To gather and analyze data, the group had to modify some processes to measure particles of the size that were relevant to their hypothesis and, ultimately, to the process.

“We had to overcome a very serious limitation of radar,” Kollias said. They “started developing a new measurement strategy.”

When the cost of collecting large amounts of data came down, this study, which involved collecting 500 times more data points than previous, conventional measures, became feasible.

Luke “came up with a very bright, interesting technique of how to quantitatively figure out, not if these particles are there or how often, but how many,” Kollias said.

Luke found a way to separate noise from signal and come up with aggregated statistics.

Kollias said everyone in the group played a role at different times. He and Luke worked on measuring the microphysical properties of clouds and snow. Yang, who joined over two and a half years ago and was most recently a post doctoral research associate, provided a talented theoretical underpinning, while Vogelmann helped refine the study and methodology and helped write up the ideas.

Kollias said the process begins with a liquid at temperatures somewhere between 0 and 10 degrees below zero Celsius. As soon as that liquid touches ice, it explodes, making it a hundred times more efficient at removing liquid from the cloud.

Kollias described the work as a “breakthrough” because it provided real measurements, which they can use to test their hypotheses.

In the next few months, Kollias said the group would make sure the climate modeling community sees this work.

Luke was hoping the collaboration would lead to an equation that provided the volume of secondary ice particles based on specific parameters, like temperature and humidity.

From the data they collected, “you can almost see the equation,” Luke said. “We wanted to publish the equation. That’s on the to-do list. If we had such an equation, a modeler could plug that right in.”

Even though they don’t yet have an equation, Luke said that explicit descriptions of the dataset, in the form of probability density functions, are of value to the modeling community.

The group would like to see how broadly this phenomenon occurs throughout the world. According to Kollias, this work is the “first step” and the team is working on expanding the technique to at least three more sites.

F. William Studier

By Daniel Dunaief

People around the world are lining up, and in some cases traveling great distances, to get vaccinations to COVID-19 that will provide them with immune protection from the virus.

An important step in the vaccinations from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the two messenger RNA vaccinations, originated with basic research at Brookhaven National Laboratory in the 1980’s, close to 40 years before the pandemic infected millions and killed close to three million people.

At the national laboratory, scientists including F. William Studier, Alan Rosenberg, and the late John Dunn, among others, worked on another virus, called the T7 bacteriophage, which infects bacteria. T7 effectively corrupts a bacteria’s genetic machinery, turning it into a machine that makes copies of itself.

From top graphic, the T7 virus uses RNA polymerase and a promoter to start a process inside a bacteria that makes copies of itself; researchers use copies of the promoter and the polymerase to insert genes that code for a specific protein; the mRNAs are injected into our arms where human ribosomes make COVID-19 spike proteins. Those spike proteins train the attack dog cells of our immune system to recognize the virus if it attempts to invade.

Back in the 1980’s, Studier and Dunn in BNL’s Biology Department were trying to do something no one else had accomplished: they wanted to clone the T7 RNA polymerase. The use of this genetic region, along with a promoter that starts the process of transcription, enabled scientists to mimic the effect of the virus, directing a cell to make copies of genetic sequences or proteins.

The BNL researchers perfected that process amid a time when numerous labs were trying to accomplish the same molecular biological feat.

“Although there were several labs that were trying to clone the T7 RNA polymerase, we understood what made its cloning difficult,” said Alan Rosenberg, who retired as a senior scientist at BNL in 1996. The patented technology “became the general tool that molecular biologists use to produce the RNA and proteins they want to study.”

The scientists who worked on the process, as well as researchers who currently work at BNL, are pleased that this type of effort, which involves a desire for general knowledge and understanding before policy makers and funders are aware of all the implications and benefits, led to such life-saving vaccinations.

“This is an excellent example of the value of basic science in that the practical applications were quite unanticipated,” John Shanklin, Chair of BNL’s Biology Department, wrote in an email. 

“The goal of the work Studier and his team did was to understand fundamental biological principles using a virus that infects bacteria. Once discovered, those principles led to a transformation of how biochemists and biomedical researchers around the world produce and analyze proteins in addition to providing a foundational technology that allowed the rapid development of mRNA vaccines,” he wrote.

Shanklin described Studier, who recruited him to join BNL 30 years ago from Michigan, as a mentor to numerous researchers, including himself. Shanklin credits Studier for helping him develop his career and is pleased that Studier is getting credit for this seminal work.

“I am tremendously proud that the basic research done in the Biology Department has been instrumental in accelerating the production of a vaccine with the potential to save millions of lives worldwide,” Shanklin wrote. “I couldn’t be happier for [Studier] and his team being recognized for their tremendous basic science efforts.”

Steve Binkley, Acting Director of the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, acknowledged the importance of the earlier work.

“The fact that scientific knowledge and tools developed decades ago are now being used to produce today’s lifesaving mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 is a great example of how the Department of Energy’s long-term investments in fundamental research at our National Laboratories can improve American lives today and into the future,” Binkley said in a statement.

Studier explained that his interests were more modest when he started studying this particular virus, which infects the bacteria E. coli.

“T7 was not a well-studied bacteriophage when I came to Brookhaven in 1964,” Studier, who is a senior biophysicist Emeritus, said in a statement. “I was using it to study properties of DNA and decided also to study its molecular genetics and physiology. My goal, of course, was to understand as much as possible about T7 and how it works.”

In an email, Studier said he did not realize the connection between his work and the vaccinations until Venki Ramakrishnan, a Nobel-Prize winning structural biologists from the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK, told him.

“I am pleased that our work with T7 is relevant for fighting this world-wide pandemic,” Studier wrote. “History shows that some of the most useful discoveries come from basic research that could not have been predicted.”

While BNL is one of 17 Department of Energy facilities, it has conducted scientific research in numerous fields.

Several translational achievements originated at BNL, Shanklin wrote, including the thalium stress test for evaluating heart function, the development of Fluoro Deoxy Glucose for Positron Emission Tomography and the first chemical synthesis for human insulin, which allowed human insulin to replace animal insulin.

As for the effort that led to the T7 discoveries, Studier worked with Parichehre Davanloo, who was a postdoctoral fellow, Rosenberg, Dunn and Barbara Moffatt, who was a graduate student.

Rosenberg appreciated the multi-national background of the researchers who came together to conduct this research, as Moffatt is Canadian and Davanloo is Iranian.

Rosenberg added that while the group had “an inkling” of the potential usefulness of the processes they were perfecting, they couldn’t anticipate its value over the next 40 years and, in particular, its current contribution.

“Nobody really understood or thought just how widely spread its use would be,” Rosenberg said. “We certainly had no idea it would be an important element in the technology” that would lead to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations.