Science

Post image for Secret lives of life’s molecules explored at SLAC lecture on April 11

SLAC scientist Raymond Sierra will present Caught on Camera: The Secret Lives of Life’s Molecules in Panofsky Auditorium on Tuesday, April 11 at 7:30 pm.

For decades, scientists have been working to understand the building blocks of life by studying the structures of proteins and other large biological molecules. Using clever tricks with microscopes, electrons, and X-rays, it is possible to see the precise arrangements of atoms in these complex molecules. This sharp view of biological structure is especially important for understanding the mechanisms of disease and designing drugs that specifically target the action of proteins in viruses and bacteria.

With conventional methods, though, we can take these pictures only when the molecules are artificially held still, for example by immobilizing them in crystals at temperatures far below freezing. Now, the LCLS X-ray laser at SLAC can deliver a beam so intense that it can take high-resolution pictures of biological molecules under natural, room-temperature conditions, even as they carry out their destructive biochemistry.

Often, the new pictures differ in significant ways from those of frozen structures. This lecture will describe how this new imaging method gives us a real-time view of the molecules’ action and opens new opportunities for discovering drugs and understanding our body’s basic chemical processes.

Raymond G. Sierra was born and raised in South Florida by Cuban immigrant parents ­– a truck-driving father and a mother and stepfather working at the U.S. Postal Service. In 2007, he graduated with honors from the University of Florida with a degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering and a minor in biomechanics.

With girlfriend and truck in tow, he drove cross-country to Stanford University. He finished his master’s degree in mechanical engineering in 2009 and then took a leave of absence for a year to do research at the Stanford PULSE Institute at SLAC.

He recently received his PhD in mechanical engineering from Stanford University by developing a method to deliver tiny biological samples in a very precise way for analysis at SLAC’s X-ray free electron laser, the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS). Sierra is now a research associate in the Hard X-Ray Department at LCLS. He continues to develop advanced mechanical techniques that enable studies of biological structure.

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“Brown Bears, Sea Otters, and Seals, Oh My!” is next USGS lecture

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Grant Hilderbrand, Chief of the Marine Ecosystems Office, USGS Alaska Science Center will give this free public lecture on March 30 at 7:00 pm. It will take place in Rambo Auditorium Bldg. 3, 345 Middlefield Rd., Menlo Park.

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Science Night returns to the Menlo Park Library on March 30

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On Thursday, March 30, the Menlo Park Library will be hosting its fourth Science Night for adults, teens, and elementary school-aged children. Displays and hands-on activities will be supplied by organizations including the National Weather Service, Marine Mammal Center, USGS Library, Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo, Marine Science Institute, Beekeepers’ Guild of San Mateo […]

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“Geology Up-Close” is USGS public lecture on Feb. 23

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USGS Geologists Leslie Hayden and Diane Moore, USGS Research Geologist Kathryn Watt, USGS Research Hydrologist Marjorie Schulz, and USGS Research Geophysicist Lara Stern will present this free public lecture on February 23, 2017, at 7:00 pm. The location is Rambo Auditorium/Bldg. 3, 345 Middlefield Rd., Menlo Park.

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Taking down a giant: 699 tons of SLAC’s Accelerator removed for upgrade

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For the first time in more than 50 years, a door that is opened at the western end of the historic linear accelerator at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory casts light on four empty walls stretching as far as the eye can see. This end of the linac – a full kilometer […]

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Spotted: Science in action at Hillview Middle School

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Hillview Middle School held its annual science fair this past week. Over 100 students worked on about 70 projects, some as two-person teams. Eighth grader Maya presented Silence in Space. Photo by Gina Hart (c) 2017

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Galaxy Clusters is topic of public lecture at SLAC on Jan. 31

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SLAC Research Scientist Eli Rykoff will give a talk titled Galaxy Clusters and the Life and Death of the Universe at the Kavli Auditorium (Building 51) at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017, at 7:30 pm. Seated is limited to 150; overflow will be directed to other rooms to watch the live steam. The […]

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Encinal School students get involved with engineering at a Build It Festival

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Students in grades second through fifth  at Encinal School in Atherton had an engineering event on Monday, with a Build It Festival from the Lawrence Hall of Sciences and an animation studio. Students constructed towers, bridges, and support structures, using their creativity, design skills, and spacial reasoning to build in both two and three dimensions. Students worked in […]

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Free USGS public lecture examines tsunamis on January 26

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Menlo Park’s “Mr. and Mrs. Chocolate” set to reveal everything about America’s favorite sweet

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Menlo Park residents Sally and Howard Peters were trained and worked as chemists, but now it’s as “Mr. and Mrs. Chocolate” that they’re best known. The reason: Since 2004, they’ve  toured the United States sharing their presentation, “Chocolate — Food of the Gods,” which explores the history and chemistry of one of America’s favorite treats. Their […]

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SLAC research shows how tiny device can disinfect water in minutes, not hours

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In many parts of the world, the only way to make germy water safe is by boiling, which consumes precious fuel, or by putting it out in the sun in a plastic bottle so ultraviolet rays will kill the microbes. But because UV rays carry only 4 percent of the sun’s total energy, the UV […]

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