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In this issue:
The New SCCS
Science Today: Scientists Decipher Mechanism behind Antimicrobial "Hole Punchers"
SERA Seeks New Members

SLAC Today

Thursday - March 6, 2008

Enterprise Computing Head Bob Cowles (left) and Scientific Computing Head Steffen Luitz.

The New SCCS

Scientific Computing and Computing Services (SCCS) has reorganized itself to better serve SLAC's scientific and enterprise computing needs. Customer service becomes a central focus with the creation of two Customer Relations and Project Management groups, one for Scientific Computing (the specialized computing required for science) and one for Enterprise Computing (everything else, including e-mail, web, databases and desktops). These new groups are headed by Steffen Luitz and Bob Cowles, respectively. In addition, the people who deliver the services have been reorganized into four distinct functional groups: Core Services, Departmental Services, Science Applications and Enterprise Applications. Security and Computing Business complete the set of SCCS functions.

A look at the new organization chart and its subcharts shows that the new organization has been achieved by asking several key SCCS staff members to wear multiple hats. Their willingness to do so illustrates the enthusiasm and commitment which they, and all of SCCS, want to bring to the department's role in SLAC's future.

SCCS is looking forward to working with customers and SLAC management to define the evolving set of services that will serve SLAC best. SCCS representatives will be meeting with other departments in the coming weeks. In addition, a formal framework for steering information technology at SLAC will be defined by management very soon. In the meantime, please help us by letting Steffen Luitz, Bob Cowles or Richard Mount know about your urgent needs and problems. The current status of SCCS services and plans is available online.

(Daily Column - Science Today)

Scientists Decipher Mechanism behind Antimicrobial "Hole Punchers"

A proposed model of the molecular "hole puncher."

The rapid development of bacterial resistance to conventional antibiotics (such as penicillin or vancomycin) has become a major public health concern. Researchers have now deciphered the molecular mechanism behind selective antimicrobial activity for a prototypical class of synthetic compounds. The compounds, which mimic antimicrobial peptides found in biological immune systems, function as molecular "hole punchers," punching holes in the membranes of bacteria, according to University of Illinois researcher Gerard Wong, who led the study.

The researchers first synthesized a prototypical class of antimicrobial compounds, then in part used synchrotron small-angle X-ray scattering at SSRL Beamline 4-2 to examine the structures made by the synthetic compounds and cell membranes.

Composed of variously shaped lipids, including some that resemble traffic cones, the cell membrane regulates the passage of materials in and out of the cell. In the presence of the antimicrobial molecules, the cone-shaped lipids gather together and curl into barrel-shaped openings that puncture the membrane. Cell death soon follows. The researchers also determined why some compounds punch holes only in bacteria, while others kill everything within reach, including human cells. The work is reported in a paper in the Journal of the American Chemical Society and posted on its website.

To learn more about this research see the full scientific highlight.

SERA Seeks
New Members

SERA Treasurer Stephanie Carlson with Co-Directors Neal Adams (center) and Mario Ortega.

The SLAC Emergency Relief Association (SERA) is rapidly approaching its 40th anniversary and is seizing the opportunity to attract new members.

SERA is a nonprofit organization that financially assists people within the lab, and the community at large, by confidentially providing loans and, in rarer cases, grants to families facing hard times.

"We're a last resort for people," co-director Mario Ortega said. "People go to financial institutions, relatives and churches before coming to us. We're the safety net that catches people after every other option has been exhausted."

Funds for SERA are received from SLAC staff by way of automatic payroll deduction. Membership in SERA constitutes a minimum donation of $12 a year, although larger sums are certainly welcome. Loans and grants are dependent entirely on donations.

SERA is operated by employee volunteers, consisting of three directors, a secretary and a treasurer. Requests for financial aid are made via applications. Each application is reviewed by the directors to determine if granting aid is appropriate.

"It's not easy for people to come to us, so we make sure we treat them with dignity and respect," said co-director Neal Adams. "These can be tough problems to deal with, financially and emotionally."

Individuals and parties interested in making donations should contact SERA Treasurer Stephanie Carlson. More information is available on the Employee Activity Group website.

Ortega and Adams have been co-directors for over a dozen years. New leadership for SERA is on the horizon since Ortega is retiring and Adams is stepping down. The new directors will be appointed within the next month.


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