HE external forces that are reshaping the Laboratory and refocusing its programs are having a significant impact on the disciplines as well. Chemistry and Materials Science, together with Physics, Engineering, and Computation, provide the disciplinary foundation for all of the Laboratory's programs. In many respects, recent changes are beneficial, particularly because they help us to sharpen our mission and purpose as a discipline.
Chemistry and Materials Science plays a vital role in the success of Laboratory programs. Lasers, weapons, nonproliferation, environmental remediation, energy technologies, advanced manufacturing, structural biology-these programs and others all involve challenging aspects of chemistry and materials science. We must provide the core-discipline expertise to meet the objectives of existing programs, plus we must continue to advance the state of the art in order to create the scientific foundations for new and evolving programs.
Our role is to be a supporting partner to existing and evolving Laboratory programs. By assigning personnel through our matrix system, we provide the programs with the required mix of scientific skills in chemistry and materials science, as well as with individuals to assist in technical project management. To this end, it is essential that we forecast accurately the types of scientific talent needed and that we attract and retain the best scientists in those areas. Given current uncertainties regarding Laboratory missions and program directions, scientific flexibility and breadth of interest are increasingly important.
Synergy between the programs and disciplines is responsible for much of the Laboratory's success over the years. Fundamental scientific discoveries open the doors to new programs, and programmatic requirements push the state of the art in the disciplines. The article in this issue on scanning tunneling microscopy is an excellent example of this process. Many programs require ever-more detailed imaging methods--electronics engineers need to be able to fabricate microcircuit patterns a few tens of atoms thick, biologists want to study single molecules of protein or DNA, and materials scientists need to be able to examine atomic-scale flaws in crystals or coatings. As scanning tunneling microscopy and atomic-force microscopy have evolved, these tasks become possible.
Indeed, one of our most difficult challenges is deciding which exciting innovations to pursue because the creativity of our scientists far exceeds our resources. Only through close partnership with the programs can we understand and anticipate their chemistry and materials science needs. And as we structure our research to develop the new processes, materials, and characterization techniques that will be needed, we make the scientific and technical discoveries that lead to new programs. Examples include the development of nanoengineered materials (aerogels and multilayers) and new processes for forming ceramic-metal composites. In these ways, the disciplines participate in and influence the evolution of the Laboratory's programs.
Guiding the development of new disciplinary capabilities and innovations is especially challenging at a time when national expectations of our Laboratory are changing rapidly. Regardless of how the Laboratory and its programs evolve, chemistry and materials science will play a key role. We are doing all that is possible to provide the right people and the research environment to foster the continual advancement of our technical capabilities and to sow the intellectual seeds for new program directions.