Berkeley Lab researchers win funding from US Department of Energy

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Six Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientists received Early Career Research awards from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The Early Career Research Program provides five years of funding to selected scientists who received their doctorate within the last 10 years. This funding comes from the DOE’s annual budget, with the money available determining the number of awards given.

“It really provides them the opportunity to focus on specific research … and also enables them to show leadership in that area, essentially, by running their own research project,” said Tristram West, who coordinated the project this year on behalf of the DOE’s Office of Science.

Among the awardees — Laura Lammers, Simon Roux, Tong Zhou, Kwabena Bediako, Heather Gray and Trevor Keenan — are both research scientists and faculty researchers from across UC Berkeley and Berkeley Lab.

The winners expressed their gratitude and excitement to begin their research projects.

Lammers, an assistant professor in the UC Berkeley department of environmental science, policy and management, will be using her grant money to study crystal growth in water-based solutions. This is important for energy and water technologies, such as desalination, where the goal is to inhibit growth of the salt crystals.

Roux, a research scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Joint Genome Institute, will use the money to study the impact of viruses on microbes within soil, while Zhou, a research scientist specializing in accelerator technology and applied physics, will focus on ultrafast laser technologies, with applications in scientific and medical fields.

Bediako, a UC Berkeley assistant professor of chemistry, said he will use the money to study developing new materials that allow more efficient conversion of electrical energy into chemical energy, or electricity into fuels.

“The money will primarily go towards funding a graduate student and a post-doctoral researcher in my group and any lab supplies needed for their work,” Bediako said in an email. “We will also use a portion to build a piece of scientific instrumentation that we need for our research.”

Gray, an experimental physicist and UC Berkeley assistant professor studying particle physics, will work on research to measure a new way that the Higgs boson particle — which is responsible for force — decays. She added that she will use the money to hire additional graduate assistants.

“It will allow me to hire a postdoc, some semesters of graduate student support and a portion of my summer salary,” Gray said.

Keenan, a UC Berkeley assistant professor in environmental science, policy and management, will study the effect of extreme weather conditions on coastal ecosystems. This research will be extremely relevant in light of increasing temperatures with climate change, according to Keenan.

From a pool of 672 candidates, these scientists were among the 76 awardees, who were chosen for their research proposals. The proposals were evaluated through a rigorous peer review system, with typically three experts from the respective field reviewing each proposal.

The different scientific programs within the awards include the DOE’s Advanced Scientific Computing Research, Basic Energy Sciences, Biological and Environmental Research, Fusion Energy Sciences, High Energy Physics and Nuclear Physics programs.

All the winning proposals fall within the DOE’s mission and relate to energy in some way, according to West.

“It is an exciting program that really provides excellent opportunities for well-deserved scientists … and investigators that are doing unique and important science related to the DOE mission,” West said.

Contact Claire Daly at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @DalyClaire13.