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In this issue:
People: Sloan Fellowship Will Help Jacob Wacker Explore the Fundamentals
Blood Drive at SLAC March 31
Workshop Explores X-ray Effects on Biological Samples

SLAC Today

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

People: Sloan Fellowship Will Help Jacob Wacker Explore the Fundamentals

Jacob Wacker. (Photo by Julie Karceski.)

Jacob Wacker is a newly-minted recipient of the Sloan Fellowship, an award aimed at supporting the research of promising scientists still early in their careers. As a specialist in theoretical high-energy physics, he is entering his fourth year as an Assistant Professor in Particle Physics and Astrophysics at SLAC. In his research, Wacker looks beyond the Standard Model, a set of laws governing matter and energy, to further explain the unknown in physics.

In the next year, Wacker expects the pace and scope of his research to accelerate with the commissioning of the Large Hadron Collider in Europe. He intends to use the fellowship funding to support graduate students and computing resources for him and his research team during this time.

In the convoluted world of theoretical physics, Wacker channels his energy into two rather different questions: the nature and origin of very long-lived particles and new theories of dark matter. Both of these research areas, while highly abstract, probe at the very fundamental properties of the particles and forces that make up our universe.

"We are explorers in some sense," he said. "With the LHC beginning to commission, this is the best chance at discovering new laws of nature."  Read more...

Blood Drive at SLAC March 31

The SLAC Blood Drive will take place on Wednesday, March 31, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Each donor will receive a special edition Donor Cup 2010 drawstring gym bag. And more than that, blood donors get the satisfaction of knowing they've helped to provide hope and life to a patient in a local hospital.

The blood drive will take place in the Panofsky Auditorium Lobby and is open to members of the SLAC community and the general public. Please make an appointment or drop by when it is convenient for you. After donating, enjoy refreshments with other donors.

This spring season SLAC donors are invited to participate in the first competition among tech companies in the Bay Area who hold at least four blood drives during 2010. Each company will be awarded "points" after each drive depending on performance—participation, projection accuracy, percent of new donors, repeat of new donors and who gives the most. Statistics can be tracked after each drive.

To make an appointment or for further information, please see the SLAC Blood Drive page.

Workshop Explores X-ray Effects on Biological Samples

Attendees of the Sixth International Workshop on X-ray Radiation Damage to Biological Crystalline Samples. (Photo by Natalie Cramar.)

Last week more than 50 scientists from around the world came to SLAC for the Sixth International Workshop on X-ray Radiation Damage to Biological Crystalline Samples, hosted by the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource's Structural Molecular Biology group, or SMB. The March 11—13 workshop focused on sample damage during X-ray crystallography and similar techniques used to explore the structure of proteins and other biological molecules.

Proteins serve as the tiny gears—and also transport tubes, conveyor belts and more—that keep living cells ticking. This tiny machinery is too small to see with visible light, so researchers rely on the short wavelength of X-rays to catch a glimpse of protein shapes and, from that, their likely functions. As the X-rays ripple by, the sample molecules disturb, or diffract them, creating a pattern that reveals the molecules' shape. But it takes a bright beam to create a clear diffraction pattern. The exposure can damage samples and introduce noise into already subtle data.

"Radiation damage is really a serious problem when you use very intense X-ray beams on small and weakly diffracting samples, like protein crystals," said SLAC researcher Ana Gonzalez. 



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