Ames Laboratory's Andreja BakacBeautiful Chemistry: Ames Lab scientist Andreja Bakac reflects on her career

One thing Andreja Bakac knows about her 37 years as a chemist—it has been beautiful.

“There is a lot of beauty to chemistry, the kind that anyone can appreciate. You don’t have to be a scientist to see it,” she said.

“I love the colors.  Inorganic compounds cover the entire spectrum, from sky blue to emerald green, purple, yellow and everything in between.  Sometimes the hues are different at different concentrations of reagents or when observed from different angles.  And crystals, tiny or large, can take breath-taking shapes and colors.”

Bakac, a senior scientist for DOE's Ames Laboratory and adjunct professor in the Department of Chemistry at Iowa State University, was drawn to the beauty of chemistry in middle school. Though she enjoyed studying other subjects like physics, math, and literature, chemistry had special appeal.

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Elementary particles behave differently in the mirror world. Graphic: Jefferson LabQuarks in the looking glass

From matching wings on butterflies to the repeating six-point pattern of snowflakes, symmetries echo through nature, even down to the smallest building blocks of matter. Since the discovery of quarks, the building blocks of protons and neutrons, physicists have been exploiting those symmetries to study quarks' intrinsic properties and to uncover what those properties can reveal about the physical laws that govern them.

A recent experiment carried out at DOE's Jefferson Lab to study a rare instance of symmetry breaking in electron-quark scattering has provided a new determination of an intrinsic property of quarks that's five times more precise than the previous measurement.

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See also…

DOE Pulse
  • Number 412  |
  • April 28, 2014
  • LLNL scientists discover bacterial resistance to improve biofuel production

    Ionic liquids (molten salts) are important solvents in the microbial production of biofuels, but can inhibit microbial growth. Lawrence Livermore researchers discovered a resistance mechanism in a rainforest soil bacterium that enables E. coli to grow and produce biofuel in the presence of ionic liquids at levels that otherwise would be toxic to native strains. Scientists from DOE's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in conjunction with the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have discovered that a type of bacterial resistance may provide more efficient production of biofuels.

    The team identified the genetic origin of bacterial resistance to an ionic liquid (a salt in the liquid state), which they successfully introduced into a strain of E. coli bacteria for advanced biofuels production. The ionic liquid resistance is based on a pair of genes discovered in a microbial species native to a tropical rainforest in Puerto Rico.

    The team identified two genes in a rainforest soil bacterium that’s tolerant to specific ionic liquids, and transferred them as part of a genetic module into an E. coli biofuel host.

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  • NREL working to clean air in fracking process

    NREL working to clean air in fracking process In the annals of impressive eating, there was The Cat That Swallowed the Canary and The Eggplant That Ate Chicago. Now, add The Microbe That Consumes the Methane.

    A microbe capable of digesting methane could save countless tons of greenhouse gas from reaching the atmosphere during the hydraulic fracturing process. Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, uses pressurized water to fracture rock to release natural gas. It's been a boon to local economies and a source of inexpensive fuels—but if nothing is done to capture the byproduct methane, which is typically flared in the air, it can also contribute heftily to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

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  • Researchers evaluate capabilities of BLOSOM, NETL’s blowout oil spill model

    Researchers evaluate capabilities of BLOSOM, NETL’s blowout oil spill modelScientists at DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory set out to create a data and modeling system to support DOE’s mission to produce science-based evaluations of engineered and natural systems, ensure sustainable, environmentally responsible access to U.S. resources, and help prevent future hydrocarbon spills and impacts. One result of this effort is NETL’s Blowout and Spill Occurrence Model (BLOSOM), an integrated system designed to simulate offshore oil spills resulting from deepwater (greater than 500 feet) and ultra-deepwater (greater than 5,000 feet) well blowouts.

    Recently, researchers used BLOSOM in an international oil spill model intercomparison study focused on improving understanding and predictions of plume dynamics and droplet-size distributions associated with subsea hydrocarbon spills or seeps.

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  • Bioenergy crops resilient to climate change, grain not so much

    Bioenergy crops can have a prominent role in reducing carbon emissions in energy production.To understand the most effective path to reduce the amount and speed of climate change, scientists are funneling world economic, energy and ecosystem data into integrated assessment models to come up with possible futures. Without a model-based analysis, it would be difficult to gauge the extent that possible emission mitigation strategies are themselves vulnerable to climate change. For instance, a robust agricultural sector will be necessary for a transition toward an energy system that is more reliant on bioenergy and less on fossil fuels. However, if agriculture is strained by climate change, such a transition may not be effective for reducing emissions. In this research from DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, scientists are solving those puzzles, piece by piece.

    The study closed a loop of inter-model comparisons conducted in the past five years, in which models of different disciplines passed information among each other to generate a coherent picture of the future.

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