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2013 - 2014 Archive

Date: 02/27/2014

The Genes Have It!

In 1985, Charles DeLisi, then Associate Director of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Health and Environmental Research (OHER), played a key role in the DOE origins of human genome activity by conceiving the idea for a program to sequence the human genome.  March 2014 is the anniversary of the Santa Fe Workshop, which brought together participants from government, academia, and the private sector to explore the possibility of sequencing the human genome.  This Workshop was sponsored by DOE and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and met DeLisi’s goal of laying out an approach to sequence the human genome.  The Human Genome Project (HGP) was formalized in mid-February 1990.

By April 2000, DOE researchers had decoded in draft form the genetic information on human chromosomes 5, 16, and 19, or an estimated 11 percent of the total human genome.  In June of that year, a ‘working draft’ that included a road map to an estimated 90% of the genes on every chromosome was announced.  More Information



Date: 01/06/2014

15 Years of Featuring DOE R&D Accomplishments - How it Happens
- From the desk of the Product Manager

Fifteen years ago was the genesis of DOE R&D Accomplishments.  It was established with the purpose of featuring U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and predecessor agency past research accomplishments whose benefits are being realized now.  As the individual responsible for the growth and development of this Web product, the journey has been challenging, fun, exciting, and thought-provoking -- but never boring.

Each year in October, the question addressed is “Are any of the newly-announced Nobel Laureates associated with DOE or any of it predecessors?”  Sometimes finding the answer to this question is like searching for a needle in a haystack.  Other times, information is easily found.  However, it is interesting to explore and find pertinent facts and tidbits about each of these newly-announced Laureates.

The same process is followed for each and every feature page (whether about a scientist or a research topic) in order to pull together related documents, biographical information and/or other items of interest.  Those items selected for inclusion are then incorporated into the feature page.  DOE R&D Accomplishments has over 100 feature pages with topics ranging from tiny atoms to the Big Bang and supernovae; from Archaea (the third branch of life) to RTGs (great to have if you’re a spacecraft), from a video game to a PET, from photosynthesis to superconductivity, and much much more.

My experience with DOE R&D Accomplishments during the past fifteen years has been very rewarding and I hope that you find the results interesting and informative.



Date: 09/30/2013

Tennis, Anyone?

This question could have been asked fifty-five (55) years ago to visitors at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL). In 1958, William Higinbotham designed a video game, called 'Tennis for Two', as an illustration of what BNL's Instrumentation Division could design and build. The video game was run by an analog computer hooked up to an oscilloscope. Controls were knobs and buttons — rotating the knob changed the angle of the ball and pressing the button sent the ball towards the opposite side of the 'net'. This interactive display was very popular with visitors and may have been the first video game. Pong was not invented until 1971. Related Information



Date: 8/06/2013

Seeing Inside

PET, MRI, CAT -- these are all acronyms for scanning techniques that assist in many medical diagnosis because they can ‘see inside’.

PET (Positron Emission Tomography) is a noninvasive way to study the human biological processes. It reveals chemical differences in the brain and helps provide insight into several neurologic disorders that affect movement, memory, aging, and dementia. It can be used to show drug addition, substance abuse, mental illness, Parkinson’s disease, and degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Related Information

MRI and CAT scans provide clear pictures of the body’s interior by visualizing structure and shape (anatomy). MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is based upon tiny magnetic movements produced by the ‘spin’ of atomic nuclei and produces recognizable images. It improves our understanding of brain function and chemistry in healthy individuals and patients with disorders such as drug addition, aggression, eating disorders, autism and neurodegenerative disorders. CAT (Computed Axial Tomography), also known as CT, is a diagnostic procedure that uses special X-ray equipment to create cross-sectional pictures of the human body. CAT scans help doctors diagnose problems by creating clear images of internal tissue, bone, organs, and blood vessels. They are used to look for broken bones, cancers, blood clots, signs of heart disease, and internal bleeding. Related Information


Date: 5/14/2013

The Fundamental Impact of a Woman’s Work

In conjunction with the celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the description of the DNA double helix in “Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid” (DNA), an ‘unsung hero’ is honored. Beginning her DNA research in 1950, Rosalind Franklin quickly made “marked advances in x-ray diffraction techniques with DNA. … She extracted finer DNA fibers than ever before and arranged them in parallel bundles.” And she discovered the “crucial keys to DNA's structure.” Her research was conducted at King’s College in London.

Without her knowledge, Maurice Wilkins, also involved in DNA research at King’s College, shared Franklin’s data with James Watson and Francis Crick, who then utilized this data in their research. Franklin’s “strained relationship with Wilkins and other aspects of King’s College (the women scientists were not allowed to eat lunch in the common room where the men did, for example) led Franklin to seek … [a] position … at Birkbeck College in London” where she “headed her own research group. … But the head of King’s let her go on the condition she would not work on DNA.”

The article containing the DNA description, published in 1953, was written by Francis Crick and James Watson. Their research was based upon Franklin’s data that Wilkins shared with them. For their DNA research, Crick, Watson, and Wilkins won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.   Related Information

- Edited excerpts from Rosalind Franklin, PBS


Date: 3/20/2013

Trailblazer on the Path to Photosynthesis

March 2013 is the sixty-fifth (65th) anniversary of the first in a series of over 20 publications that reflect the exploration of the path of carbon in photosynthesis, the process by which plants capture energy from the sun. Spanning decades, this exploration eventually led to Department of Energy (DOE) research into solar energy.

The trailblazer who led this exploration was Melvin Calvin, a chemist at the University of California Berkeley Radiation Laboratory (now Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory). Using the carbon-14 isotope as a tracer, Calvin and his team mapped the complete route that carbon travels through a plant during photosynthesis, starting from its absorption as atmospheric carbon dioxide to its conversion into carbohydrates and other organic compounds. In doing so, the Calvin group showed that sunlight acts on the chlorophyll in a plant to fuel the manufacturing of organic compounds. Calvin received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1961 ‘for his research on the carbon dioxide assimilation in plants’.

In the early 1960’s, Calvin established Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s (LBNL) Chemical Biodynamics division and directed it for two decades. Calvin's work in deciphering the role of carbon in photosynthesis led to a lifelong interest in adapting photosynthetic techniques for energy production. In his final years of active research, he studied the use of oil-producing plants as renewable sources of energy. He also spent many years testing the chemical evolution of life and wrote a book on the subject that was published in 1969.   More Information


Date: 1/15/2013

The Value of a PET

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanners were developed in the early 1970s and have revolutionized medical evaluation and treatment since.  PET is a medical technique that permits the imaging of biological processes in the organ systems of living individuals.  It provides insight into human metabolism and brain activation and function, including schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease, stroke, addition, and other psychiatric and neurological disorders.  PET also improves the diagnosis of disorders such as epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, cardiovascular diseases, and many cancers, including lung, colorectal, breast, ovarian, lymphoma, melanoma, and prostate cancers.  More Information

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