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OSTIblog Posts by Mary Schorn

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Product Manager, DOE R&D Accomplishments

Putting Scientific and Technical Information in Perspective: DOE R&D Accomplishments

Published on Nov 12, 2015

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The Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) acquires, manages, preserves, and disseminates DOE scientific and technical information (STI) such as technical reports, journals articles, videos, scientific research data, and in other forms and formats.

However, this STI does not stand alone.  It is always a part of a larger picture.  It could be the result of research by a Nobel Laureate or a remarkable advance in science; it could have significant economic impact or have improved people’s lives; and it could be involved in many other things, such as enabling space exploration.

“What?” you ask, “Enable space exploration?”  

Yes, RTGs (Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators) that were developed by DOE have supported space exploration since the early 1960s with the Surveyor program and continue through today.  Today RTGs are powering the New Horizons space probe, which recently flew past Pluto; the Voyager, which recently entered interstellar space; the Mars rover Curiosity; and the Cassini that is orbiting Saturn.  RTGs have also powered the Apollo missions, the lunar lander, the Viking missions to Mars, and the Pioneer, Ulysses, and Galileo missions.  And the RTG has made the movies: it keeps Matt Damon warm in “The Martian.” 


15 Years of Featuring DOE R&D Accomplishments

Published on Apr 04, 2014

DOE R&D Accomplishments


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.

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.


DOE and Human Genome Research

Products and Content

Published on Mar 28, 2014

Charles DeLisi


The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has historically played a leading role in supporting human genome research.  March 2014 is the anniversary of the 1986 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).  The Human Genome Project (HGP) was formalized in mid-February 1990.

In honor of the anniversary of the Santa Fe Workshop, DOE R&D Accomplishments has published a new feature page, Human Genome Research: DOE Origins.  This page describes the key role played by Charles DeLisi, then Associate Director of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Health and Environmental Research (OHER) in conceiving the idea for a program to sequence the human genome.  The Santa Fe Workshop met DeLisi’s goal of laying out an approach to sequence the human genome. 

This new feature page complements a previously published DOE R&D Accomplishments feature page, Human Genome Research: Decoding DNA.  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. 


The Manhattan Project -- Its Operations

Science Communications

Published on Nov 29, 2012

Manhattan Project Map


Major operations for the Manhattan Engineer District (Manhattan Project) took place in remote site locations in the states of Tennessee, New Mexico, and Washington, with additional research being conducted in university laboratories at Chicago and Berkeley.

At the Metallurgical Laboratory in Chicago, Enrico Fermi's experiments at the CP-1 pile took place to determine the exact amount of neutron reduction needed for a safe and controlled sustained nuclear reaction.  A second pile (CP-2), with external cooling, was built at Argonne in order to move the continuing experiments away from populated areas.

Under the umbrella of Clinton Engineer Works near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the X-10 experimental plutonium pile and separation facilities, the Y-12 Electromagnetic Plant, and the K-25 Gaseous Diffusion Plant were constructed. 

In February 1943, ground was broken at X-10 for an air-cooled experimental pile, a pilot chemical separation plant, and support facilities.   On November 4, the pile went critical and it produced plutonium by the end of the month.  The chemical separation plant completed the steps needed for producing pure plutonium by extracting the plutonium from the irradiated uranium.  Chemical separation techniques were so successful that Los Alamos received plutonium samples in the spring of 1944.


Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Nobel Prizes for Two DOE-associated Researchers

Science Communications

Published on Oct 05, 2012

Georges Charpak and Rudolph Marcus


DOE-associated researchers have contributed to the advancement of a variety of science disciplines as a result of research they have conducted. Twenty years ago, the work of two of these researchers (Georges Charpak and Rudolph Marcus) was recognized when they were awarded Nobel Prizes.

Georges Charpak was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics "for his invention and development of particle detectors, in particular the multiwire proportional chamber".

"It's hard to imagine a particle physics experiment that wouldn't use one of his concepts. ... Particle physicists owe him a lot, and so does the general public, since his inventions yield applications in many other fields that use ionising radiation such as biology, radiology and nuclear medicine.


Powering Curiosity; Exploring New Horizons - DOE's MMRTG

Products and Content

Published on Aug 09, 2012



DOE's RTG is doing it again. The Department's Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG) is providing continuous power to the Mars rover Curiosity.  This radioactive power source is "essentially a nuclear battery that will operate the rover’s instruments, robotic arm, wheels, computers and radio. It is fueled with plutonium-238 that gives off heat as it naturally decays. No moving parts are required to convert this heat into electricity."1

The MMRTG "can go farther, travel to more places, and power and heat a larger and more capable scientific payload compared to the solar power alternative NASA studied. The radioisotope power system gives Curiosity the potential to be the longest-operating, farthest-traveling, most productive Mars surface mission in history." 1

With the Curiosity safely on Mars, it begins its mission to explore and investigate "whether conditions have been favorable for microbial life and [to] preserve clues it finds in the rocks. Curiosity will analyze dozens of samples drilled from rocks or scooped from the ground as it explores with greater range than any previous Mars rover."1


The Manhattan Project -- Its Establishment

Science Communications

Published on Aug 03, 2012

President Roosevelt


On August 13, 1942, the Manhattan Engineer District, whose name was based upon the geographical location of its headquarters, was established.  In September, the Army appointed Colonel Leslie R. Groves to head the effort.  Groves held that the exigencies of war required scientists to move from laboratory research to development and production in record time.  Though traditional scientific caution might be short-circuited in the process, there was no alternative if a bomb was to be built in time to be used in the current conflict (World War II).

Various isotope separation methods (uranium enrichment) to produce uranium-235 were being researched at this time.  One was gaseous diffusion being done at Columbia and another was the electromagnetic method being done at Berkeley under Ernest O. Lawrence.  Based upon the success of the electromagnetic method, the S-1 (The Office of Scientific Research and Development Section On Uranium) Executive Committee recommended building plants in Tennessee at Site X (now Oak Ridge).


The Manhattan Project -- Its Background

Science Communications

Published on Jul 12, 2012

Manhattan Project


This year is the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Manhattan Project, a predecessor of the U.S. Department of Energy.  In honor of its impacts on science and history, a 'Manhattan Project' series on this blog will revisit various aspects of its background, establishment, operations, and immediate and long-term influences. The first of the series is about the background of the Manhattan Project.

During the fall of 1939, President F. D. Roosevelt was made aware of the possibility that German scientists were racing to build an atomic bomb and he was warned that Hitler would be more than willing to resort to such a weapon.  As a result, Roosevelt set up the Advisory Committee on Uranium, consisting of both civilian and military representatives, to study the current state of research on uranium and to recommend an appropriate role for the federal government.  The result was limited military funding for isotope separation and the work on chain reactions by Enrico Fermi and Leo Szilard at Columbia University.


Celebrating DOE Accomplishments the Blogging Way

Products and Content

Published on Aug 15, 2011

DOE R&D Accomplishments


You can get a quick read on exciting historical research accomplishments of DOE and its predecessors via the DOE R&D AccomplishmentsBlog. The Blog provides comments about and calls attention to the multiple diverse aspects of the outcomes of past DOE R&D that have had significant economic impact, have improved people's lives, or have been widely recognized as a remarkable advance in science. After viewing the short entries on the blog, you can then select the link to the DOE R&D Accomplishments website for more information.

The Blog showcases the website’s unique and specialized collection; celebrates anniversaries of historical research and resulting impacts; and highlights Nobel Laureates and their scientific influences and contributions.

The Blog originally grew out of 2009 Year of Science announcements and now contains historically significant documents, DOE/Predecessor connections to elements on the Periodic Table, important inventions, significant 'firsts' and discoveries, and much more.

The wide variety of interesting tidbits on the Blog can be food for thought and can provide insights into DOE/Predecessor history that are interesting yet may not be well known.

Mary Schorn


Mutual Benefits at Work!

Products and Content

Published on Mar 23, 2011

DOE OSTI recently hosted a graduate student from the University of Michigan (UM) School of Information (SI) for a week in our Germantown offices.  The student, Ryan Tabor, was participating in the UM SI Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program, which matches graduate students with professional-experience projects identified by host organizations.  Ryan's graduate school specialty area is human-computer interaction. That, coupled with his undergraduate degree in psychology and his work experience on IT Help Desks, created a great match for OSTI's project -- a usability study of DOE R&D Accomplishments.