Clarina dela CruzMoving fast: Neutron scattering work by ORNL's dela Cruz earns notice

Growing up in the Philippine province of Aklan on the island of Panay, Clarina dela Cruz was always encouraged to learn by her doctor mother and engineer father. At age 12, dela Cruz qualified to move to Manila to attend the Philippines Science High School—a special school that trains students at an early age to excel in college-level science, math and engineering courses.

Dela Cruz’s already established love for learning propelled her into the program and eventually into a position as a neutron scattering researcher at DOE’s High Flux Isotope Reactor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

“In high school, I saw more because the school really exposes you,” said dela Cruz. “You’re from a little school on a little island and now you’re in the city with all the resources in your hands. That really opened up the world for me and I decided when I was 13 that I was going to get my Ph.D.”

At 16, dela Cruz graduated high school and enrolled at the National Institute of Physics at the University of the Philippines.

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Mimulus guttatus. James GaitherMonkey flower see, monkey flower do: Model plant's legacy highlights gene-shuffling hotspots

Genomic variation is a feature of all natural populations and is vitally important in order to survive changes in their environments. Genetic variation among individuals, to which DNA recombination is an important contributor, is passed from parents to offspring and helps explain that different individuals in the population may harbor a diverse set of traits. Understanding and characterizing this variation requires both appropriate model organisms and a considerable amount of genomic sequencing capacity, on the scale of the capability of DOE's Joint Genome Institute.

Published the week of November 11, 2013, in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), a group of researchers led by the DOE JGI completed a draft sequence of the monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus) genome and identified the historic footprints of DNA recombination events that have shaped the development of this plant species over the last several hundred thousand years. By extension, these observations should inform new plant breeding strategies that could be vitally important to developing improved bioenergy plant feedstocks.

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See also…

DOE Pulse
  • Number 402  |
  • December 2, 2013
  • Idaho laser research could benefit nuclear fuel recycling

    The high-power laser within the Center for Advanced Energy Studies at INL. James Bond used a laser beam to cut through windows and walls, but scientists with the Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES) at DOE's Idaho National Laboratory are using a new laser that can melt metal.

    Scientists are evaluating a system called Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS), which uses a high-power laser to discern the contents of used nuclear fuel.

    LIBS could provide real-time analysis of used nuclear fuel during recycling, a capability useful for both industry and government agencies. Knowing the element ratios throughout the recycling procedure can also prevent plutonium diversion for illicit use.

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  • Maximizing energy gains from tiny nanoparticles

    Transmission electron micrograph of cerium oxide nanoparticles (bright angular "slashes") supported on a titania substrate a potential catalyst for energy-transformation reactions. Sometimes big change comes from small beginnings. That’s especially true in the research of Anatoly Frenkel, a professor of physics at Yeshiva University, who is working with materials scientist Eric Stach and others at DOE's Brookhaven Lab to reinvent the way we use and produce energy by unlocking the potential of nanoparticles. Their aim is to develop a new “micro-reactor” to study how nanoparticles behave in catalysts—the “kick-starters” of chemical reactions that convert fuels to useable forms of energy and transform raw materials to industrial products.

    The new micro-reactor will employ multiple techniques including microscopy, spectroscopy, and diffraction at Brookhaven’s National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS), the soon-to-be-completed NSLS-II, and the Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN) to examine different properties of catalysts simultaneously under operating conditions.

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  • Rare neutrino scattering events shine light on the nature of matter

    A close-up of the light sensors inside the MiniBooNE neutrino detector. Credit: FermilabNeutrinos are a great tool to learn more about the subatomic structure of matter and the nature of our universe. Results from the MiniBooNE experiment at DOE’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory now help scientists better understand the nuclear structure of protons and neutrons, explore the nature of neutrino oscillations and search for dark matter.

    Neutrinos interact with other building blocks of matter only via the weak force, mediated by two types of particles: the charged W boson and the electrically neutral Z boson. Each type of boson weighs almost 100 times more than a proton, and the origin of their masses is closely connected to the existence of the famous Higgs boson.

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  • Lost in translation: Gene expression changes don’t always alter protein levels

    The relative contribution of transcription (vertical axis) versus translational efficiency (horizontal axis) to changes in protein expression. The change in both directions shows that transcription is not the sole determinant of altered protein levels.To determine if the common assumption – changes in specific messenger RNA (mRNA) levels are always accompanied by commensurate changes in the encoded proteins – is true, scientists at DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory examined Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 grown under steady state conditions at either 20% or 8.5% oxygen. Using a combination of quantitative proteomics and a next-generation sequencing technology, they generated high-confidence data on more than 1000 mRNA and protein pairs. Surprisingly, they found that changes in the expression of proteins in response to altered oxygen levels were caused primarily by differences in the translational efficiency of the mRNAs rather than changes in the mRNA levels.

    For example, when oxygen levels were lowered, 28% of the detected proteins showed at least a twofold change in expression. Altered transcription levels appeared responsible for 26% of the protein changes, altered translational efficiency appeared responsible for 46%, and a combination of both were responsible for the remaining 28%.

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