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In this issue:
Computing Service Outages During Cooling System Upgrades
People Today: Clyde Smith at SSRL
Holiday Luncheon Today
SLAC Staff Earn Green Building Certification

SLAC Today

Wednesday - December 17, 2008

Computing Service Outages During Cooling System Upgrades

After a planning meeting, Facilities, Operations, Scientific Computing and Computer Services and contract team members gather near the updated piping that will supply Building 50. (Photo by Shawne Workman. Click for larger image.)

Scientific computing will experience service outages during the week of January 5th while crews from Facilities and Operations complete upgrades to the chilled water system that keeps SLAC servers in Building 50—and some employees—at operating temperatures. Servers supporting most SLAC experiments must be shut down to reduce the heat load while the main cooling system is taken offline January 5–12. If all goes well, service will be restored by January 13.

The team will make every effort to ensure that the project does not affect enterprise computing, including business systems and telephone, e-mail, Web, Internet, printing and most data servers, including SLAC home directories. Systems crucial to ongoing data collection for the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and operations of the Linac Coherent Light Source will also remain available. For a detailed list of systems that will be shut down, please see the Cooling Outage Web page. Although unlikely, unseasonably warm weather could overcome the temporary, air-cooling systems that will be in place. In that case, it may become necessary to shut down some enterprise servers to protect them from overheating. If that happens, a notice will be posted to the above Web page and to the comp-out mailing list. If weather reports in early January predict exceptionally warm weather the week of the 5th, the work may be postponed and an announcement will appear in SLAC TodayRead more...

(Weekly Column - Profile)

Clyde Smith at SSRL

Clyde Smith at the protein crystallography Beamline 9-2. (Photo by Calla Cofield. Click for larger image.)

The Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource boasts the only fully remote crystallography beamlines in the world, allowing users to analyze samples without ever leaving the comforts of their own laboratories. Since 2006, SSRL research scientist Clyde Smith has traveled to conferences and workshops to demonstrate this amazing technology to potential users.

"I think some people didn't believe me at first," Smith says with a laugh. "It's like they thought I was lying." To demonstrate, Smith goes online with the beamline just like a remote user would. Specialized software designed at SSRL allows Smith to command a robot arm, which can pick up a sample and place it in the beamline or do any number of other tasks. Smith sets up a video link showing the inside of the beamline hutch in real time as he operates the arm. He adds, "I ask someone in the audience to tell me which sample to pick, so they don't think I'm just showing a movie or something."

Part of Smith's job is to assist users who come to the beamline. The gregarious New Zealander says the remote access makes the beamline quieter than others at SLAC, and he does miss interacting with the users face-to-face.

Smith is also pursuing his own research on bacterial mutations and antibiotic resistance. Sitting in his office filled with stacks of papers, he explains, "Bacteria have such short lifetimes [that] they go through hundreds, thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of generations a year, so they become immune to antibiotics in just a few years. None of the original kinds of penicillin are effective any more. It's really scary!"

Somehow, Smith talks about it all with a smile. Maybe it's because he is working on ways to combat the problem of bacterial resistance to medicine. "The bacteria mutate to produce enzymes to deactivate the drug so it can't get to the target," he says. "Our goal is to make inhibitors that bind to the enzymes and let the drug do the work." Patients would take both a drug, such as penicillin, and an additional supplement to fight the bacteria's own defenses against the drug. Smith is using the protein crystallography beamlines at SSRL to look at these enzymes and inhibitors close-up.

For years before he joined SSRL as an employee, Smith came to the lightsource as a user from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, where he earned his PhD, and then from the University of Wisconsin, where he did his postdoctoral research. In retrospect, he says he always thought SSRL seemed like a great place to work. "I tell people I got my dream job," he says. "I couldn't ask for a better one."

Holiday Luncheon Today

(Image - SLAC Season of Cheer)

The annual SLAC Holiday Party takes place between 11:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. today in Panofsky Auditorium and the Linear CafĂ©. Come join the celebration and enjoy a buffet lunch, the movie "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" and continuous raffle drawings. Be sure to complete the raffle form at the bottom of the holiday flyer distributed early last week to participate in the drawings. For a raffle form and more information, see the party announcement.

SLAC Staff Earn Green Building Accreditation

Jo Beth Folger (left) and Maneesha Khandekar (right). (Photo by Shawne Workman. Click for larger image.)

As SLAC moves to comply with stricter Department of Energy environmental policies, the lab will need staff who understand the requirements for greener building construction and operations. Two Facilities Department staff members stepped up to the plate this fall, passing the U.S. Green Building Council exam to become Accredited Professionals in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.

Facilities Project Manager Jo Beth Folger and Engineering and Science Associate Maneesha Khandekar studied hard for the rigorous exam, which prepared them to advise lab construction and building operations in LEED "greening" principles.

Following the DOE Transformational Energy Action Management or TEAM initiative, all lab construction costing more than $5 million must achieve LEED "Gold" certification, and smaller projects must follow LEED principles for sustainable energy and resource use. LEED requirements call for the use of rapidly renewable materials such as bamboo, reuse of building materials where possible, and reduction in use of energy as well as potential indoor toxins and pollutants. The principles apply to new construction, but also existing buildings. By the year 2015, 15% of buildings on site must operate following LEED standards.

Folger and Khandekar can draw on their backgrounds in civil engineering and architecture, respectively, as strong complements to the LEED AP certification, to act as consultants for SLAC building projects. Passing the LEED exam is helpful for their work at SLAC, but both Folger and Khandekar also spoke of more fundamental motivations.

Khandekar noted the health impacts of greener practices. "These standards can help to create a healthier work environment," she said.

"I'm personally committed to helping the DOE ensure that we have adequate energy resources for my children," Folger said, "and my children's children."

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