Laboratory geochemist Annie Kersting, who serves as the director of Livermore’s Glenn T. Seaborg Institute, has been selected to receive the 2016 American Chemical Society’s Francis P. Garvan–John M. Olin Medal. The medal recognizes outstanding scientific achievement, leadership, and service to chemistry by women, and is a national award open to all chemists who are U.S. citizens. Kersting is well known for her work in actinide environmental chemistry. She was among the first scientists to show that insoluble radionuclides, like plutonium, could travel several kilometers in the subsurface environment as suspended, nanometer-sized colloidal particles. This work changed how scientists think about migration of insoluble actinides. Most of her current research at the Seaborg Institute focuses on better understanding what processes occur at the nanoscale—at the mineral–water surface that control the behavior of actinides in the subsurface. The goal is to predict and ultimately constrain the migration of these contaminants in the environment.
Anne Harrington, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) deputy administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, presented the NNSA Excellence Medal to Leon Berzins for the successful Source Physics Experiment 4 Prime (SPE4) campaign at the Nevada National Security Site. The experiment, designed to provide a better understanding of seismo-acoustic propagation, is important to worldwide nuclear monitoring. In his role as manager of the SPE4 campaign, Berzins led the research team in redesigning experimental tools and methods, conducting safety reviews, coordinating efforts with Los Alamos National Laboratory, and fielding the experiment, which was successfully executed on May 21, 2015.
Lawrence Livermore scientist Nir Goldman recently received a $500,000 NASA grant to continue astrobiology research that aims to discover whether comets and other large astrophysical bodies delivered the complex prebiotic materials, amino acids, and peptides necessary for promoting life on Earth. Goldman’s early research found that the impact of icy comets (containing simple molecules such as water, ammonia, methanol, and carbon dioxide) crashing into Earth billions of years ago could have produced a variety of small prebiotic or life-building compounds, including amino acids. The NASA grant will fund quantum simulation studies to understand aqueous mixtures of preformed amino acids under impact conditions. Goldman’s efforts will extend his previous work by looking at whether extreme pressures and temperatures from impact could induce the formation of more intricate chemical structures such as peptide chains or simple proteins.
SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, recently named Livermore researchers Nerine Cherepy and Michael Pivovaroff among 171 new senior members. SPIE senior members are honored for their professional experience, active involvement with the optics community and SPIE, and significant performance that sets them apart from their peers. Cherepy is being recognized for her “achievements in discovery and development of new scintillator materials and detectors,” and is currently involved in creating new scintillator materials and instrumentation for gamma-ray spectroscopy and radiographic imaging. Pivovaroff is an associate division leader for physics, who leads the Applied Physics section, which investigates the nature of dark energy and dark matter, explores the dynamics of ultrafast photon–matter interactions, and performs observations to better understand the composition and distribution of planets and neutron stars. He is being recognized for his “achievements in design, fabrication, and use of reflective x-ray optics.”