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Doon Gibbs

JoAnne Hewett has been named the new BNL director. Photo from SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

For the first time in its over 75-year history, Brookhaven National Laboratory named its first female lab director.

JoAnne Hewett, associate lab director for fundamental physics and chief research officer at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, California, will take over the top job at BNL this summer.

Hewett will also join Stony Brook University as a tenured faculty member in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the C.N. Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics.

Hewett “is not only incredibly qualified and talented, but will also make history as the first woman to serve in this critical role,” Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), who is the first woman elected governor of the Empire State, said in a statement. “The lab has developed innovative ways to deliver on New York’s top priorities, from battling disease to acting on climate change, that are making a difference today and for the future of New York.”

Hewett, who was the first woman member at SLAC in 1994, conducts research as a theoretical physicist, exploring the fundamental nature of space, matter and energy. Her work in physics focuses on efforts beyond the Standard Model of particle physics.

Stony Brook University Distinguished Professor and Director of the C.N. Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics George Sterman described her hire as a “wonderful turn of events.”

In an email, Sterman wrote that her work “as a theoretical physicist has earned wide admiration, and her leadership has helped shape the national program in fundamental particles.”

Sterman suggested Hewett’s research “continues to influence experiments worldwide, and her perspectives will be greatly valued by her new colleagues at Stony Brook.”

With over 2,800 scientists, engineers, technicians and professionals and an annual budget of about $700 million, the researchers at BNL tap into the site’s state-of-the-art technology, including the National Synchrotron Lightsource II. These researchers, and the many scientists from around the country and the world, work in fields including nuclear and high energy physics, clean energy and climate science, quantum computing, artificial intelligence, photon sciences, isotope production, accelerator science and technology and national security.

Hewett is coming to BNL as it prepares to begin construction on the Electron-Ion Collider, or EIC. Estimated to cost between $1.7 billion and $2.8 billion, the EIC will allow researchers to look inside the nucleus at the protons and neutrons. The research will reveal the arrangement of quarks and gluons that make up the protons and neutrons of nuclei.

Discoveries from the EIC could lead to future technologies.

“I am head-over-heels excited to build the EIC in partnership with Jefferson Lab to unlock the mysteries of the force that binds Nature’s building blocks, to strengthen connections to industry and the community with Discovery Park, and to advance the multi-program missions of the lab,” Hewett said in a statement. “And I’m very much looking forward to working with everyone at Brookhaven, Stony Brook and the DOE to usher the lab into its next successful chapter.”

The lab is also building a new welcome center, the Science and User Support Group, which is the first building planned for Discovery Park.

Maurie McInnis, president of SBU and co-chair of the BSA Board of Directors, which is a partnership between SBU and Battelle, welcomed Hewett, who will start this summer, to BNL.

Hewett’s “capable leadership, experience and future-forward vision complements Brookhaven National Laboratory’s continued focus on scientific innovation and discovery,” McInnis said in a statement. “The University is pleased to bring her expertise to the Physics and Astronomy Department and to the C.N. Yang Institute of Theoretical Physics, both of which have had “long-standing and critical connections to many major physics achievements at BNL.”

The next few months

Hewett takes over the top job at the lab from Doon Gibbs, who had been in that position from 2013. Gibbs is retiring on April 17.

“I am grateful to [Gibbs] for his outstanding leadership of Brookhaven and his long legacy of building and strengthening the lab for advancing scientific discovery,” Hewett said in a statement.

Jack Anderson, BNL’s deputy director for operations, will serve as the interim lab director until Hewett joins the lab.

Tom Daniels, the current ALD for Facilities and Operations will serve as interim deputy director.

Commemorating the start of construction for the Science and User Support Center from the U.S. Department of Energy and Brookhaven Lab are (from left) Joe Diehl, Caroline Polanish, Robert Gordon, Geri Richmond, Doon Gibbs, Chris Ogeka, Tom Daniels, Peggy Caradonna, Andrea Clemente, and Gary Olson. Photo from BNL

Construction is underway for the newest facility at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory. The Science and User Support Center (SUSC) is the first building for the planned Discovery Park, a development the Laboratory is pursuing near its entrance along William Floyd Parkway.

The three-story, 75,000-square-foot facility will serve as a welcome center for the 75-year-old Brookhaven Lab, which is home to seven Nobel Prize-winning discoveries and hosts thousands of guests annually. The SUSC will also offer conference and collaboration areas for scientists as well as office space for the Lab‘s support staff.

Officials from DOE and Brookhaven Lab commemorated the start of construction during a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday, Oct. 26.

DOE’s Under Secretary of Science and Innovation Geri Richmond said, “This strategy—of welcoming the community to be part to our nationallaboratories and focusing on creative, innovative ways for public-private partnerships to strengthen the economy—is so important. This is a centerpiece, a catalyst for the campus and for the future.”

Manager of DOE’s local Brookhaven Site Office, Robert Gordon, said, “This is transformative for Brookhaven National Laboratory. We should be accessible. We’ve done that with our words and our actions. Now we’re doing it with concrete.”

Brookhaven Lab Director Doon Gibbs said, “This construction is a milestone in the Laboratory‘s long-term strategy to revitalize its physical plant. We look forward to welcoming visitors, users, students, and members of the community to connect with Brookhaven, the DOE, our science, and the impact it has.”

Plainview-based E.W. Howell is leading construction as the project’s general contractor. The Laboratory announced in February that it awarded E.W. Howell a $61.8 million contract to build the SUSC. DOE approved a total cost of $86.2 million for the project. E.W. Howell and BrookhavenLab are targeting 2024 for construction to be completed.

The SUSC is the first building planned for Discovery Park, a new vision for Brookhaven Lab‘s gateway with approximately 60 acres of previously used, publicly accessible land. The Laboratory is working with DOE on a process for developers, collaborators, and entrepreneurs to propose, build, and operate new facilities that could complement DOE and Brookhaven Lab‘s missions and leverage opportunities from close proximity to the Laboratory.

Empire State Development is supporting Brookhaven Lab‘s efforts for Discovery Park with a $1.8 million capital grant, recommended by the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council.

The future Science and User Support Center. Rendering courtesy of BNL

Increasing Efficiency for Discoveries, New Technology

Brookhaven Lab attracts scientists from across the country and around the world by offering expertise and access to large user facilities with unique capabilities.

Brookhaven hosted more than 4,400 in-person and virtual scientists from universities, private industry, and government agencies in fiscal year 2021. In the years before the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 5,000 guests and facility users visited each year. The Laboratory expects the number of guests researchers to increase in the coming years, particularly as capabilities expand at the National Synchrotron Light Source II—a DOE Office of Science User Facility—and with the design and construction of the future Electron-Ion Collider.

The SUSC, when complete, is where those guests will arrive. The SUSC will also help improve the guests’ experiences of visiting Brookhavenbecause the Laboratory will consolidate a number of guest services into a central, modern building close to the site entrance.

The SUSC will also feature reconfigurable conference space, designed in response to requests from facility user communities to create opportunities for scientists to collaborate.

In addition, the SUSC will help the Laboratory increase efficiencies by reducing its building footprint atop the 5,322-acre site. The Laboratory plans to relocate approximately 225 staff at the SUSC. They are currently spread across the Lab site, which contains 314 buildings—some that date back to the World War II era, when the Laboratory was the site of the Army’s former Camp Upton.

The SUSC project is funded by the DOE Office of Science.

Brookhaven National Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy. 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 science.energy.gov.

From left, outgoing Secretary of the Department of Energy Ernest Moniz with BNL Laboratory Director Doon Gibbs taken at the opening of the National Synchrotron Light Source II at BNL. Photo courtesy of BNL

By Daniel Dunaief

Before Ernest Moniz ends his tenure as Secretary of the Department of Energy, he and his department released the first annual report on the state of the 17 national laboratories, which include Brookhaven National Laboratory.

On a recent conference call with reporters, Moniz described the labs as a “vital set of scientific organizations” that are “critical” for the department and the country’s missions. Experts from the labs have served as a resource for oil spills, gas leaks and nuclear reactor problems, including the meltdown at Fukushima in 2011 that was triggered by a deadly tsunami. “They are a resource on call,” Moniz said.

In addition to providing an overview of the benefit and contribution of the labs as a whole, the annual report also offered a look at each of the labs, while highlighting a research finding and a translational technology that has or will reach the market. In its outline of BNL, the report heralded an “exciting new chapter of discovery” triggered by the completion of the National Synchrotron Light Source II, a facility that allows researchers at BNL and those around the world who visit the user facility to explore a material’s properties and functions with an incredibly fine resolution and sensitivity.

Indeed, scientists are already exploring minute inner workings of a battery as it is operating, while they are also exploring the structure of materials that could become a part of new technology. The DOE chose to shine a spotlight on the work Ralf Seidl, a physicist from the RIKEN-BNL Research Center, has done with several collaborators to study a question best suited for answers at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider.

Seidl and his colleagues are exploring what gives protons their spin, which can affect its optical, electrical and magnetic characteristics. The source of that spin, which researchers describe not in terms of a top spinning on a table but rather as an intrinsic and measurable form of angular momentum, was a mystery.

Up until the 1980s, researchers believed three subatomic particles inside the proton created its spin. These quarks, however, only account for a third of the spin. Using RHIC, however, scientists were able to collide protons that were all spinning in a certain direction when they smash into each other. They compared the results to protons colliding when their spins are in opposite directions.

More recently, Seidl and his colleagues, using higher energy collisions, have been able to see the role the gluons, which are smaller and hold quarks together, play in a proton’s spin. The gluons hadn’t received much attention until the last 20 years, after experiments at CERN, in Geneva, demonstrated a lower contribution from quarks. “We have some strong evidence that gluons play a role,” Seidl said from Japan, where he’s working as a part of an international collaboration dedicated to understanding spin.

Smaller and more abundant than quarks, gluons are like termites in the Serengeti desert in Africa: They are hard to see but, collectively, play an important role. In the same report, the DOE also celebrated BNL’s work with fuel cell catalysts. A senior chemist at BNL, Radoslav Adzic developed a cheaper, more effective nanocatalyst for fuel cell vehicles. Catalysts for fuel cells use platinum, which is expensive and fragile. Over the last decade, Adzic and his collaborators have developed a one-atom-thick platinum coating over cheaper metals like palladium. Working with BNL staff scientists Jia Wang, Miomir Vukmirovic and Kotaro Sasaki, he developed the synthesis for this catalyst and worked to understand its potential use.

N.E. Chemcat Corporation has licensed the design and manufacturing process of a catalyst that can be used to make fuel cells as a part of a zero-emission car. This catalyst has the ultra low platinum content of about two to five grams per car, Adzic said. Working at BNL enabled partnerships that facilitated these efforts, he said. “There is expertise in various areas and aspects of the behavior of catalysts that is available at the same place,” Adzic observed. “The efficiency of research is much more convenient.”

Adzic, who has been at BNL for 24 years, said he has been able to make basic and applied research discoveries through his work at the national lab. He has 16 patents for these various catalysts, and he hopes some of them will get licensed. Adzic hopes this report, and the spotlight on his and other research efforts, will inspire politicians and decision makers to understand the possibility of direct energy conversion. “There are great advances in fuel cell development,” Adzic said. “It’s at the point in time where we have to do some finishing work to get a huge benefit for the environment.”

At the same time, the efficiency of fuel-cell-powered vehicles increases their economic benefit for consumers. The efficiency of an internal combustion engine is about 15 percent, whereas a fuel cell has about 60 percent efficiency, Adzic said.

BNL’s Laboratory Director Doon Gibbs welcomed the DOE publication. “This report highlights the remarkable achievements over the past decade of our national lab system — one that is unparalleled in the world,” he said. Gibbs suggested that the advanced details in the report, including the recognition for the NSLS II, span the breadth of BNL’s work. “They’re just a snapshot of what we do every day to make the world a better place,” Gibbs said.

While the annual report is one of Moniz’s final acts as the secretary of the agency, he hopes to communicate the vitality and importance of these labs and their work to the next administration.“I will be talking more with secretary nominee [Richard] Perry about the labs again as a critical jewel and resource,” Moniz said. “There’s a lot of support in Congress.” Moniz said the DOE has had five or six lab days, where labs share various displays with members of the legislative body. Those showcases have been “well-received” and he “fully expects the labs to be vital to the department.”