SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

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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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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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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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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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History of the Milky Way explained by SLAC physicist on Oct. 11

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What do we know about the origins and history of our home galaxy, how do we know it — and how can we use that information to hypothesize about the future of the Milky Way? On Tuesday, October 11, SLAC Astronomer Phil Marshall will share billions of years of history in about an hour’s time […]

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“A Material World: a Renaissance at the Atomic Scale” is topic of SLAC public lecture

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Rob Moore will be speaking on A Material World: a Renaissance at the Atomic Scale at a free public lecture at SLAC’s Panofsky Auditorium on Tuesday Sept. 27, from 7:30 to 8:30 pm. It would have been hard to predict Google, Facebook and Twitter as results of the creation of the first transistor out of a chunk of […]

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Greene Scholars explore science and engineering at SLAC in Menlo Park

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Jaden Morgan, a 13-year-old rising freshman who will attend Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose this fall, had heard about SLAC’s legendary two-mile-long accelerator but had never been to the lab. This summer he had the chance to see the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory facilities in Menlo Park up close and hear […]

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SLAC’s historic linac turns 50 and gets a makeover

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Since the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park powered up its “linac” half a century ago, the 2-mile-long particle accelerator has driven a large number of successful research programs in particle physics, accelerator development and X-ray science. Now, the historic particle highway is getting a makeover that will pave the way […]

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New X-ray laser at SLAC brings promise of never-before-seen views of nature

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Construction has begun on a major upgrade to a unique X-ray laser at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park. The project will add a second X-ray laser beam that’s 10,000 times brighter, on average, than the first one and fires 8,000 times faster, up to a million pulses per second. The […]

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Public can tour SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory twice a month beginning in April

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Beginning in April, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park will offer free public tours, which last approximately 90 minutes and include a visit to the lab’s two-mile-long linear accelerator, now driving the world’s brightest X-ray source. Tours are offered twice a month, by registration only, which opens on the last Friday of the previous month. Registration […]

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Getting a tour of the new Science and User Support building at SLAC

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We’ve been watching the new building at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory go up over the past year, and now that it’s complete, find it quite eye-catching, particularly as viewed going west on Sand Hill Road. Accompanied by InMenlo contributing photographer Irene Searles, we were given a tour of the first floor and second floor by […]

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