Berkeley Lab scientist presented with Distinguished Service Award

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The Department of Energy Secretary’s Distinguished Service Award was presented to former division deputy Zahid Hussain during a surprise ceremony Jan. 10 for his work at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, or Berkeley Lab.

Hussain was a longtime scientist at Berkeley Lab who helped develop the Advanced Light Source, or ALS. The ALS is a specialized particle accelerator that generates bright beams of X-ray light for scientific research, according to the lab website. Hussain’s work at the ALS began in the late 1980s and concluded last year for his retirement.

Hussain’s contributions included building new experimental techniques that utilize soft X-rays, which look at the chemistry of molecules.

“It was a total shock … such an award is rarely given to the scientists from the national lab,” Hussain said. “I was … delighted that the people farther away do see that I’m helping.”

Distinguished scientist Chuck Fadley said that he was not at all surprised that the award was presented to Hussain. Fadley has known Hussain since he was a graduate student obtaining his Ph.D and said that Hussain was “always truly outstanding.”

In addition to developing new techniques, Hussain said that he was able to build the infrastructure of ALS through the creation of various postdoctoral fellowships. Fadley said that Hussain has created a legacy at ALS by hiring new scientists.

“Zahid’s contributions to science — at Berkeley Lab and beyond — have been truly exceptional,” Berkeley Lab director Michael Witherell said in an email. “As a leader in the worldwide synchrotron radiation community, his accomplishments have led us to a new era in x-ray techniques, serving the world in the creation of next generation technologies that can be applied to advance computing and electronics.”

Hussain’s roots in science began in his childhood. His oldest brother guided him and served as his first inspiration. Hussain said he was “lucky” to have many mentors as he developed his early scientific goals in Pakistan. His mentors continued to guide him even when he decided to go overseas to earn his Ph.D.

“I was truly very lucky that throughout my life from my brother to my teachers to my mentors, that I was associated with the leaders of science,” Hussain said. “I saw them and I learned from them.”

In a nomination letter, Fadley credited Hussain with spearheading a revolution in angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy, or ARPES, which is the technique for studying the electronic structure of any new material.

“The ALS would simply not be the world-leading institution in soft x-ray science that it is today without his many contributions,” Fadley wrote in the letter. “The global synchrotron radiation effort would be poorer without him.”

Contact Julie Madsen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Julie_Madsen_.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Zahid Hussain received the Department of Education Secretary’s Distinguished Service Award. In fact, Hussain received the Department of Energy Secretary’s Distinguished Service Award.