Berkeley Lab Highlights
Highlights 1999-2000

Ernest Orlando Lawrence, the founder and namesake of this Laboratory, is credited with many historic achievements including, in 1931, the invention of the cyclotron. An ingenious little device, no bigger than the stretch of his hand, the cyclotron would herald a new era in physics, becoming a prelude to the large, complex accelerators of today. Considered by many to be the father of big science, Lawrence was able to tackle large-scale scientific projects by fostering a spirit of cooperative, integrated research, using multidisciplinary scientific teams that included contributors drawn from fields such as physics, biology, chemistry, and nuclear science. One of the first to push for the inclusion of engineers as full partners in such teams, Lawrence was able to integrate engineering concepts and designs into cutting-edge experimental research equipment.

What in 1931 was considered visionary is today, on the eve of the late Dr. Lawrence’s centenary year, the scientific standard. The legacy of Lawrence’s crosscutting team approach to problem solving is preeminent in Berkeley Lab’s current research enterprise, no more apparent than in the scientific highlights presented in this publication.

Berkeley Lab scientists have applied team science to life’s grandest puzzle--understanding the human genome. Using the capabilities of robotics engineering, huge accelerator-based imaging, state-of-the-art DNA sequencers, electron microscopes, and the nation’s fastest unclassified supercomputer, researchers here have been at the leading edge of a revolution that promises to change the way health and medical care are addressed in this century. A prime example is the recent discovery by Berkeley Lab bioscience researchers of two genes responsible for the development of asthma.

At the Advanced Light Source, an experimental facility that uses beams of bright x-rays to probe materials, Life Sciences researchers have used the unique capabilities of the crystallography beamline to obtain the first ever high-resolution image of a complete ribosome--the virus-sized organelle vital to protein synthesis. Another beamline, specially suited to the study of microbes and living cells, is helping Earth Sciences researchers study microscopic underground pollutants, with the hope of better understanding their biological and environmental effects.

Using the high-speed computing capabilities of the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), two mathematicians have written software for a new and different algorithm known as PSLQ, creating a practical, efficient, and fruitful tool for discovery.

Another engineering marvel, a 1,200 ton detector system known as BaBar, is sifting through 238 million beam crossings a second to answer one of physics’ most basic questions--the difference between matter and antimatter.

You can read about these and other significant discoveries in the stories that follow. When you do, you will see that scientific discovery and progress are not the result of one researcher working in isolation, but are made possible by a vast network of collaborations involving scientists and engineers, theorists and experimentalists, multidisciplinary scientific divisions, unique facilities, and contributors across the continent and often the world.

This report is a tribute to team science, one of the many legacies left to us by Ernest Lawrence and the foundation on which Berkeley Lab has built its scientific enterprise over the past seven decades. I hope you find these snapshots of our innovative research as exciting as we do. 

— Charles V. Shank, Director

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