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September 2015

Molecular Foundry User Meeting: A Macroscopic View of Nanoscience


A US Department of Energy (DOE) user facility such as the Molecular Foundry provides perhaps one of the best examples of a community in which scientists from a range of disciplines have the opportunity to forge connections. The Foundry’s User Meeting, held at Berkeley Lab from August 20-21, offered a glimpse into the diverse fields supported by the facility, and how these fields can converge at the nanoscale.

Over 300 present and potential users gathered at the meeting for plenary talks, symposia, and vendor booths from industrial sponsors. The Foundry’s Users’ Executive Committee (UEC) chair Alpesh Shukla lauded the “diversity in talks and symposia that represent all seven Foundry facilities.”

Ralph Greenspan, UCSD Professor of Neurobiology and Director of the Center for Brain Activity Mapping, gave the first of three keynote addresses, discussing the BRAIN initiative and its relationship to nanoscience. 

It’s not only the Foundry that allows users to probe the nanoscale. The second keynote talk was given by Roger Falcone, Director of the Advanced Light Source (ALS) and professor of physics at UC Berkeley, who explained how a single proposal can give researchers access to both the Foundry and the ALS. 

A final plenary talk from Paul Weiss, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCLA and the California NanoSystems Institute, addressed placement and control of single molecules and assemblies to optimize material contacts. 

The second day featured symposia on diverse topics including synthesis challenges in battery and solar fuels research; new classes of 2D materials in advanced electronics; and new operation modes of electron microscopes and synchrotron sources, among many others.

“We’ve seen nanoscience medicine, energy conversion, and condensed matter physics. I’m impressed by the depth of the program,” says Molecular Foundry Director Jeff Neaton. “At conferences, you have people converge in a certain [research] area. This meeting is the other end of the spectrum, with exposure to new fields.”

“We’ve had a great showing for the User Meeting,” adds Andy Minor, director of the Foundry’s National Center for Electron Microscopy (NCEM). “It’s becoming the annual must-attend meeting.”