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In this issue:
Brains in the Beamline
Martin Perl Talks Science with Young Musicians
Meet Your ES&H Coordinator: Behzad Bozorg-Chami

SLAC Today

Thursday - May 8, 2008

Uwe Bergmann and Helen Nichol position human brain slices for rapid scanning at SSRL. (Click on image for larger version.)

Brains in the Beamline

From X-rays to MRIs, advances in physics have been instrumental in improving human health. A new imaging technique developed at SLAC by Senior Staff Scientist Uwe Bergmann and his team may represent the next big advance for biological imaging. The method is currently being used to study neurodegenerative diseases, but may soon be applied to answer all kinds of medical questions.

The new method, called biological rapid scanning or X-ray fluorescence (XRF) imaging, uses the intense X-rays generated at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL) to reveal the identities of trace elements in a scanned sample. The new technique is an advance over earlier microprobe X-ray analysis because it's very fast, scanning in one hour what used to take nearly 12 days to scan.

"Biological rapid scanning is complementary to other imaging techniques and should be used with other techniques," Bergmann said. XRF imaging provides lower resolution than microprobe analysis, he said, but its speed makes it practical for the first time large samples—such as the human brain—are scanned.  Read more...

Martin Perl
Talks Science
with Young Musicians

(Photo - Cedros Pan American Orchestra)
The Cedros-Pan American Children-Youth Symphony Orchestra in one of its many San Francisco concerts.
(Click on image for larger version.)

Martin Perl admits he doesn't know a lot about music. "Music is amazing to me," he says. "But I don't understand the constraints. I can't tell what's good or bad." He's spent his life studying physics and engineering—two fields he admits are fundamentally different from music. Yet even if music is a mystery to Perl, he's learned some life lessons that apply to artists and scientists alike.

Perl spoke in the Kavli Auditorium last Sunday to a group of 76 young musicians from Mexico City's Cedros-Pan American Children-Youth Symphony Orchestra. Gabriel Pliego, one of the student's professors, emailed Perl personally to request a talk for the students while the orchestra was in the Bay Area to perform at the City College of San Francisco. Perl happily agreed to talk to the all-boys orchestra about physics, music and life.

The boys, ranging in age from seven to 22, travel the world with the orchestra, and often take time to meet professional musicians or performers. The school also has a strong focus on science and mathematics, and Pliego says this time they thought, "why not do something different?" He continued, "Even though we're performers, we love science and it's important at the school. The kids were very excited to meet a Nobel Prize winner in physics."

Perl's 15 minute talk was followed by 40 minutes of questions and posing for photographs. Some questions were directly related to Perl's work, and others, such as "why is the speed of light what it is?" Perl could only answer with a "we don't know." He gestured to the group and said, "These questions will have to be answered by the young people."

Perl's power-point presentation outlined the life advice he's gathered over the years: know your strengths, be prepared to make mistakes, do what you love and take time to play. While he acknowledges the difference between succeeding in physics and succeeding in music, he showed that the necessary skills are often the same: work hard and be imaginative.

Meet Your ES&H Coordinator: Behzad Bozorg-Chami

Environment, Safety and Health (ES&H) Coordinator Behzad Bozorg-Chami works to ensure safety within the Photon Science and Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL) Directorates. This large-scale domain includes the Photon Ultrafast Laser Science and Engineering (PULSE) project and the Stanford Institute for Material and Energy Sciences (SIMES), formerly the X-ray Laboratory for Advanced Materials (XLAM).

"We have users from all around the world," he said. "Part of what I do involves making sure they return home in the same condition that they came to SLAC."

Bozorg-Chami, who has been with SLAC for a year and a half, brings a decade's worth of experience to his position. He has a Bachelor's degree in Environmental Toxicology with a concentration in Physiology, and a Master's in Environmental Management.

All ES&H directorate coordinators provide education, support and resources by clarifying safety concerns related to requirements and training and other safety-related information, as well as overseeing implementation of ES&H program guidelines. Individuals working within Photon Science and SSRL with questions and comments can contact Bozorg-Chami at x3872.


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