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People: Dan Miller and Joshua Lande's SASS

New SASS Czars Joshua Lande and Dan Miller. (Photo by Nicholas Bock. Click for larger image.)

The SLAC Association for Student Seminars, or SASS, is getting ready for a leadership change. Stanford graduate students Dan Miller and Joshua Lande are set to begin one-year terms as SASS Czars today.

SASS is a graduate student group that holds weekly talks on a purposefully broad range of topics, with a schedule of upcoming presentations that includes electric cars, the flora and fauna of SLAC and pi approximation. As czars, Miller and Lande will organize the group's meetings: finding speakers, putting up posters, making sure all the equipment works and bringing snacks. They officially inherit the position from current czars Daniel Ratner and Steve Herrin at today's SASS meeting.

SASS is one of the only groups for graduate students that meets regularly at SLAC, something that Lande said makes the group especially valuable.

"It's easy, at SLAC, to get stuck in your work group," he said. "The idea of SASS was 'let's get all the grad students together.' There's really nothing else like it."

Miller agreed, adding that the group also provides students an opportunity to get out of the lab and to discuss their work and results with others.

"You can get into the grind everyday of just doing research and being at a computer analyzing data. That's just one small part of learning how to be a good scientist," Miller said. "The rest is communication."

The new czars' main goal is to build on the diversity of the presentations given at SASS meetings. Lande said it's important that the meetings don't become too specialized. He hopes that SASS can draw students from all parts of the lab to give presentations, along with non-scientists and possibly lab administrators.

SASS is only a small part of what Lande and Miller do at SLAC, though.

Lande is a first-year physics graduate student working with Stefan Funk on the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and the Advanced Gamma-ray Imaging System. He also spent time at SLAC as a SULI intern during summer 2008, receiving that year's Ernest Coleman Award for Scholarship and Citizenship for work developing software to analyze X-ray diffraction patterns.

Miller, a third-year chemistry graduate student, works with Anders Nilssen at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource to study reactions that limit fuel cell efficiency. Miller and his colleagues hope that understanding why such reactions occur will point to ways to limit them, leading to more efficient fuel cells.

"We're getting very, very high resolution at the beamline," Miller said. "I think we have a pretty good chance of actually finding out what kind of chemistry is taking place."

SASS meetings are held every Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. and are open to the public. For more information and a schedule of upcoming presentations, visit the SASS Web site.

—Nicholas Bock
SLAC Today, June 24, 2009