Three scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science to receive funding through the Early Career Research Program (ECRP). In addition, a faculty scientist with a joint appointment at Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley will receive ECRP funding through their UC Berkeley affiliation.
The Department of Energy today announced the selection of 93 scientists from across the nation to receive funding for research as part of the program. This year’s awardees represent 47 universities and 12 DOE National Laboratories across the country.
“Supporting America’s scientists and researchers early in their careers will ensure the United States remains at the forefront of scientific discovery,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “The funding announced today gives the recipients the resources to find the answers to some of the most complex questions as they establish themselves as experts in their fields.”
The ECRP program, now in its 14th year, bolsters the nation’s scientific workforce by supporting exceptional researchers at the outset of their careers, when many scientists do their most formative work. Awards to an institution of higher education will be approximately $875,000 over five years and awards to a DOE national laboratory average around $2,500,000 over five years.
This year’s Berkeley Lab awardees and their projects are listed below:
Sam Barber is a research scientist in the Accelerator Technology & Applied Physics Division working on developing next-generation light sources using laser-plasma accelerators (LPAs). Particle accelerator-based light sources serve a robust community of scientific users who use these tools to conduct critical research in areas like biotechnology, quantum materials science, and matter under extreme conditions. LPAs offer a new approach to generating and accelerating charged particle beams that promise to substantially enhance the capabilities and future development of accelerator-based light sources. Barber’s ECRP project, “Extending the reach of light source facilities with precision laser plasma injectors,” develops concrete steps to extract the maximum potential of LPAs for light sources and provides a blueprint for their integration into existing and future light source facilities. In addition, Barber received FY23 Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) funding for a project entitled “Optimizing High-Brightness Electron Beams from Laser Plasma Accelerators Using Machine Learning Approaches.” That work will develop the tools needed to efficiently characterize and optimize electron beams generated by LPAs.
Lucas Brouwer is a research scientist in the Accelerator Technology & Applied Physics Division who works on superconducting magnet science and applications. Future experiments in high energy physics require new particle accelerators with an unprecedented need for rapid, high-power acceleration. Brouwer’s ECRP project, “Fixed-Field Superconducting Magnets for Rapid, High Power Acceleration of Muons and Protons,” aims to help meet these demands by developing advances in fixed-field acceleration, in which alternating gradient magnet structures are employed to transport beams of different energy without magnetic field change. His research will address technology gaps through optimization and testing of a novel superconducting magnet tailored for fixed-field acceleration. Brouwer also received FY23 Accelerator Stewardship funding for a project entitled “High-Temperature Superconducting Magnets for Achromatic Proton Therapy Gantries.” That work will focus on testing a prototype superconducting magnet with the potential to reduce the overall cost of treatment facilities and enable faster treatment modalities.
Jin Qian, a staff scientist in the Chemical Sciences Division, is working on understanding how chemical dynamics – the coordinated symphony of photons, electrons, and atoms – affects energy harvesting in large and complex renewable energy applications, such as carbon capture, the conversion of carbon dioxide emissions into fuel, and water splitting for hydrogen fuel production. Qian’s ECRP project “From Molecules to Continuum: Exploring a Universal, Transferable, and Physics-Based Understanding of Chemical Dynamics from ab-initio” aims to advance the range of length and time scales accessible by computational chemistry. Her innovative approach will uncover electronic structure-level insights into the chemical dynamics of heterogeneous materials that consist of up to more than 10,000 atoms. Qian also received FY22 Early Career Development LDRD funding for a synergistic project entitled “Unravelling Chemical Dynamics through Development of a Digital Twin for Core-Level Spectroscopy.” That work aims to build a “digital universe” that helps experimental chemists accelerate their research through real-time predictions and analysis of their measurements.
Additionally, Michael Zuerch, a faculty scientist in the Materials Sciences Division and an assistant professor of chemistry at UC Berkeley, received an ECRP award through his UC Berkeley affiliation. His ECRP project will explore how to control the chiral properties of materials through light-matter interactions, which is a critical frontier in materials research. The project, “Ultrafast mechanisms of chirality control in electronic materials,” will employ techniques such as extreme-ultraviolet ultrafast spectroscopy and ultrafast electron diffraction to investigate chiral order during and following light-matter interaction. The research could pave the way for innovative applications, including optically rewritable non-volatile memories and energy-efficient computation.
A complete list of this year’s ECRP awardees is available on the Office of Science website.
Founded in 1931 on the belief that the biggest scientific challenges are best addressed by teams, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and its scientists have been recognized with 16 Nobel Prizes. Today, Berkeley Lab researchers develop sustainable energy and environmental solutions, create useful new materials, advance the frontiers of computing, and probe the mysteries of life, matter, and the universe. Scientists from around the world rely on the Lab’s facilities for their own discovery science. Berkeley Lab is a multiprogram national laboratory, managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit energy.gov/science.