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Highlights 2002-2003

Director's Foreword


The past year has been a richly rewarding period of progress and discovery here at Berkeley Lab. Our scientific endeavors have advanced the frontiers of knowledge across a broad spectrum of disciplines.

In our Physics Division, members of the Supernova Cosmology Project gathered enough data to put an emphatic stamp of validation on their 1998 discovery that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, driven by the mysterious and heretofore unknown force of dark energy. They were helped in no small measure by the computational contributions of the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), which Berkeley Lab hosts and which continues to play a vital role in the applications of supercomputing to our nation's nonclassified scientific research effort.

Scientists in our Life Sciences Division, working with our partners at the Joint Genome Institute, broke new ground in the search for human genes and a better understanding of how they impact our health. Our researchers also uncovered a new risk factor in heart disease, revealed how viral infections take place at the cellular level, and gained valuable new insight into a basic but essential biological process, the means by which water passes in and out of a living cell.

As befits a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory, Berkeley Lab researchers contributed to this country's mandate for energy conservation with the invention of a table lamp that saves energy and provides better lighting as well. Our researchers also braved the stormy waters off the Antarctic to contribute to an experiment that offers an intriguing possibility for reducing global warming.

Perhaps no other areas of scientific and engineering research today hold more promise for the technologies that will serve us all tomorrow than those which plumb the mysterious depths of the nanoscale world. At this level-where materials can be assembled atom by atom, and an electronic device can consist of a single molecule,

where movements can be restricted to two or even one dimension, and the speed of information processing is limited only by the speed of light-Berkeley Lab researchers have been opening doors into a future of seemingly boundless possibilities. In these highlights you will find descriptions of nano-sized solar cells and multipurpose wires that are precursors to this future, and you will learn about new developments at the Advanced Light Source that will help bring this vision to fruition.

Even as we look to the future, however, we cannot afford to forget the past. In the aftermath of the terrible events of September 11, 2001, we have all been made sadly aware of the need to secure our nation's borders against terrorist threats. Berkeley Lab researchers have already taken steps that can help in this cause. One team has helped develop a hand-held radiation detector so sensitive it can locate and distinguish between harmless radioactive isotopes, intended for medical purposes, and the type of radiation that could be used to make a "dirty bomb." Another has developed a portable device that uses neutrons to identify explosives as well as radioactive materials.

But the role that science and engineering here at our Laboratory plays in securing our homeland from outside threats extends far beyond the development of devices and techniques for detecting threats from radioactive, chemical, or biological sources. By adding to the collective knowledge and understanding of our society, the staff at this Laboratory is not only helping to bolster our technological safeguards and ability to respond to a crisis, but is also providing the intellectual enlightenment that is the hallmark of a free and open society. At Berkeley Lab we can say with pride that we do science that makes a positive difference for all of us.

Charles V. Shank, Director
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