Rising Stars

Sandia Researcher Greg Nielson Named One of "Top Ten"


Citing his accomplishments in microsystem-enabled photovoltaics (MEPV), Popular Science Magazine has named Greg Nielson one of its brilliant-ten, one of ten young (under 40) scientists most likely to have major impacts. Read the press release.

In turn, Nielson credits the LDRD Program for his success: “Without the LDRD Program, we wouldn’t be where we’re at,” he says.

Sometimes referred to as “Solar Glitter,” Greg’s team has employed microsystems fabrication techniques to engineer solar photovoltaic (PV) cells about 250 microns in diameter (about the width of two or three human hairs) and a mere 15 microns (or less) in thickness (about one-tenth the thickness of a single human hair). The outcomes of that project were PVs of better than 12% efficiency.

In a current LDRD project, the team is engineering the cells into systems. Because of their thinness, the cells are quite flexible. This allows them to be mounted on flexible material, which can then be conformally bent to fit irregular surfaces. This gives the solar systems numerous potential applications in military, defense, and space systems.

In terms of applications to commercial and consumer PV, the systems composed of thousands of individual cells per square meter are more robust, to a large extent because they can be interconnected in an electrical network configuration, rather than simply in series as in the case of current PV technology. This means that “opens”—broken connections—that might completely inactivate a PV panel of current technology would be very well tolerated by MEPV panels, degrading their performance by a few percent or less.

Katherine Lovejoy Appointed as Reines Postdoctoral Fellow

Katherine Lovejoy

Los Alamos Postdoctoral researcher Katherine Lovejoy (Materials Chemistry) has been awarded the 2011 Frederick Reines Postdoctoral Fellowship in Experimental Sciences. Lovejoy joined the Laboratory in December 2009 as an Intelligence Community Postdoctoral Fellow. She worked on the design and synthesis of non-aqueous liquid materials for use in forensic applications by the FBI. The project involved development of a strategy for advanced analysis of dyes on wool fibers found at improvised explosive device (IED) explosion sites. Her research has resulted in a primary-author article in Analytical Chemistry, and a U.S. patent application has been filed. Her LANL mentors are Rico Del Sesto and Andy Koppisch.

As a doctoral bioinorganic chemistry student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology working with Steve Lippard, Lovejoy led external collaborations to advance platinum anticancer drug candidates through pre-clinical trials, including performing in vitro and in vivo studies at several international university and hospital laboratories. Her research resulted in a patent application and several publications, including an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that described a platinum antitumor agent. Lovejoy received an International Precious Metals Institute Student Award for her research in the field of precious metals. She also studied at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Polymer Chemistry on a Fulbright Grant, where she helped discover a robust model membrane system that led to a DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) grant.

The Reines is one of three Laboratory Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellowships, the recipients of which must display extraordinary ability in scientific research and show clear and definite promise of becoming outstanding leaders in the research they pursue. This Fellowship, which supports experimental science, is named after the former LANL researcher who won the 1995 Nobel Prize in Physics. The LDRD program supports all distinguished postdoctoral fellowships at Los Alamos.

Chih-Chun Chien Receives the J. Robert Oppenheimer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Chih-Chun Chien

Los Alamos Postdoctoral researcher Chih-Chun Chien (Physics of Condensed Matter and Complex Systems) has been awarded the 2011 J. Robert Oppenheimer Postdoctoral Fellowship. Chien joined Los Alamos National Laboratory in December 2009 as a Director’s Postdoctoral Fellow. He worked on the unified description of superconductors and ultracold atomic systems. Since coming to LANL, he has co-authored over ten articles published in prestigious journals including Physical Review Letters and Reports on Progress in Physics. His mentors are Bogdan Damski and Michael Zwolak. Chien’s research supports the Laboratory’s Materials for the Future capability.

As a doctoral physics student at the University of Chicago, he worked with Professor Kathryn Levin to investigate ultracold polarized Fermi superfluids. This research significantly contributed to the development and understanding of the first experiments on this subject. In particular, Chien developed a phase diagram of these systems, which subsequent experiments performed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology group of Professor Wolfgang Ketterle (a Nobel prize winner from 2001) confirmed. Chien published his research in numerous Physical Review publications, including two well-cited Physical Review Letters where he is a primary author.

The J. Robert Oppenheimer Fellowship, named after the Lab’s first Director, is one of three Laboratory Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellowships. The recipients of these Fellowships must display extraordinary ability in scientific research and show clear and definite promise of becoming outstanding leaders in the research they pursue. The LDRD program supports all distinguished postdoctoral fellowships at Los Alamos.

Livermore Postdoc Receives Presidential Early Career Award

Lynford Goddard

Lynford Goddard, a former postdoctoral researcher in Lawrence Livermore's Engineering Directorate, was named by President Obama as a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). Goddard was nominated for this award in support of his ongoing collaborations with Livermore researchers, including a new LDRD project developing embedded sensors for monitoring the nation's nuclear weapon stockpile (10-ERD-043).

Read the press release.

Vivien Zapf Receives Lee Osheroff Richardson Prize

Vivien Zapf

Vivien Zapf of Los Alamos National Laboratory's Materials Physics and Applications Division is the recipient of the 2010 Lee Osheroff Richardson U.S. Prize for research in physical science. The annual award, sponsored by Oxford Instruments NanoScience, which designs and manufactures tools and systems for industry and research in science and technology, is given to promote and support the career development of early career scientists in North America who conduct research employing low temperatures and/or high magnetic fields. A committee of senior academics throughout North America selects the recipient.

Zapf's colleagues nominated her for her work on Bose-Einstein condensation in quantum magnets. She studies the fundamental properties of materials, including quantum magnets, superconductors and other correlated-electron systems, at high magnetic fields and low temperatures. Zapf is currently researching magneto-electric and multiferroic effects in quantum magnets that are composite organic-metallic hybrids. She also investigates the physics of quantum magnets at low temperatures, including the Bose-Glass to Bose-Einstein condensation phase transition, which is analogous to the metal-to-insulator transition for fermions, and the effect of quantum fluctuations on boson masses. Zapf has published nearly 60 journal articles.

Much of Zapf's work recognized by the prize was supported by the Los Alamos LDRD program. In 2004-2006, she worked on an LDRD postdoctoral project called "Bose-Einstein Condensation of Spins in Quantum Magnets," with principal investigator Alex Lacerda. Now a staff scientist, Zapf is co-principal investigator of a 2010 LDRD project called "Understanding and Controlling Complex States Emerging from Frustration."

The Lee Osheroff Richardson Prize is named after the joint winners of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Physics (David M. Lee, Douglas D. Osheroff, and Robert C. Richardson) for their discovery of superfluidity in helium-3 and is endorsed by the British Embassy, Washington, DC, under the UK Science & Technology Programme. Zapf will receive the award, which includes an $8,000 cash prize, at the American Physical Society meeting in March in Portland, Oregon.

Postdoctoral Publication Prize in Experimental Sciences Awarded to Graves

Chris Graves

Chris Graves, a current Seaborg Postdoc Fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory, is the 2009 winner of the Los Alamos Postdoctoral Publication Prize in Experimental Sciences.

Graves, nominated by his mentor and LDRD principal investigator Jackie Kiplinger, was recognized for his major contribution to the manuscript “Organometallic Uranium (V)-Imido Halide Complexes: From Synthesis to Electronic Structure and Bonding,” published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

This work has already made a significant impact. As of the date of submission of the nomination in March of 2009, the paper had already been cited a number of times, many that were from research groups outside the United States. The international impact of the contribution was further highlighted by Dr. Marinella Mazzanti (Director, Inorganic-f-Element Chemistry Group, CEA-Grenoble), who stated that Graves' contribution represented “a milestone in the history of organometallic actinide chemistry.” Dr. David Clark (Director, G.T. Seaborg Institute, LANL), sums up the significance of the work in his supporting letter, citing the work as “truly ground-breaking.”

White House Honors Los Alamos Physicist's Early Career Work

Ivan Vitev

On July 10, 2009, the White House announced that Los Alamos National Laboratory physicist Ivan Vitev would receive a prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The honor is the highest bestowed by the U.S. government to outstanding scientists early in their careers.

Vitev joined Los Alamos National Laboratory in 2004 as a J. Robert Oppenheimer Postdoctoral Fellow, the most distinguished postdoctoral appointment at the Laboratory. Vitev is widely recognized for his expertise in quantum chromodynamics, the theory of strong interactions, and in energy loss of high-energy particles in hot, dense matter. His scientific work has been used to determine properties of the quark-gluon plasma, a new state of matter discovered in 2000 that is similar to what many scientists believe conditions of the universe were like immediately after the Big Bang. Vitev’s work has assisted research at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory, and he is leading a theoretical effort to measure energy loss in jets of high-energy particles at the Large Hadron Collider in Europe. Vitev has published 58 manuscripts, which have been cited more than 2,800 times, and he has given more than 100 invited talks.

Vitev’s research was funded by DOE’s Office of Science and the National Nuclear Security Administration. As a PECASE recipient, he will receive up to five years’ funding from the Office of Science to advance his research.

In addition to DOE Office of Science Funding, Vitev’s research efforts received funding from the Laboratory-Directed Research and Development program through his Oppenheimer Fellowship.

“Ivan is a recognized leader in the nuclear physics community at LANL,” said John Sarrao, director of the Laboratory’s Office of Science Programs. “His work has attracted other gifted researchers to the Laboratory and continues to inspire physicists worldwide. We congratulate Ivan on this most prestigious recognition of his talent.”

Office of Science Awards Los Alamos Scientists Five-Year Research Grants

Nate McDowell

In January 2010, five scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory were awarded funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), as part of the Department of Energy's new Early Career Research Program. The Early Career Research Program, which exemplifies the Obama Administrations commitment to invest in innovation and research, is designed to bolster the nation's scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during their crucial early career years, a period when many scientists do their most formative work. Two of the award recipients were LDRD researchers:

Nate McDowell collected the award for his proposal "An Integrated Theory on the Mechanisms of Vegetation Survival and Mortality During Drought." His goal is to develop and test a unified theory of vegetation mortality and survival during drought. The experimental work and theory will be used to simulate vegetation mortality and survival and their feedbacks on region and global climate. McDowell came to Los Alamos as a Director's Postdoctoral Fellow in 2003 and became a staff scientist in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Division in 2004. He studies the inter-dependency of plant and ecosystem water and carbon cycles and their response to climate and disturbance. McDowell serves on advisory committees for the National Science Foundation, DOE, and the Laboratory. He also is an associate editor for two international journals and has testified before Congress regarding DOE's climate-change research.

Evgenya Smirnova

Evgenya Smirnova won the award for her proposal "Advancing Our Understanding of Photonic Band Gap Structures for Accelerators." Her objective is to advance Photonic Band Gap (PBG) accelerator technology for use in the next generation of particle accelerators for high-energy physics. Superconducting PBG accelerator technology also could deliver extremely intense, short-wavelength laser radiation needed for free-electron lasers. As part of her doctoral research in physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Smirnova came to LANL as a visiting student in 2003 to work on the cold testing of the PBG accelerator. In 2005 she joined the Laboratory as a Director's Postdoctoral Fellow, becoming a staff member in 2007. Smirnova is developing new W-band PBG devices and metamaterial devices at terahertz (THz) frequencies. She received the American Physical Society Outstanding Doctoral Thesis in Beam Physics Award and is a recipient of the Laboratory's LAAP Team Award, Distinguished Performance Award, and LAL Star Award.

LDRD Postdoc Receives Prestigious Fellowship

Shadi Dayeh

Shadi Dayeh, a Director's Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies, has been appointed a Distinguished J. Robert Oppenheimer Postdoctoral Fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Named after the Laboratory's first Director, this prestigious 3 year fellowship provides the opportunity for recipients to collaborate with Laboratory scientists and engineers on staff initiated research. Candidates must display extraordinary ability in scientific research and show clear and definite promise of becoming outstanding leaders in the research they pursue. As an Oppenheimer Fellow Shadi plans to pursue semiconductor nanowire studies in a wide variety of areas, including understanding and controlling the science of their growth and their applications in electronics, spintronics, solar energy harvesting and neural probe research. Shadi joined LANL in September, 2008 as a Director's Postdoctoral Fellow; his CINT mentor is LDRD principal investigator Tom Picraux.