Faces of the Ames Laboratory
If you follow the popular media, scientists appear to be a quirky bunch of people. I’m not too concerned about that image, though, for a couple of reasons. First, I work around a group of truly outstanding scientists, so I know the truth. Second, I have observed over the course of many decades that the media – and TV in particular – present new groups first as caricatures and slowly develop mainstream roles for them over several seasons of programming and casting. Scientific characters are on that path, but we still have a little way to go.
This issue of Inquiry is devoted to introducing some of the Ames Laboratory’s people to our readers. Our people are the core of our success, and the Ames Lab’s team includes some really interesting ones. Like all other scientists, they are regular people of all kinds, with regular lives and regular sorts of interests, but they do share a handful of distinguishing features. First and foremost, they are all high achievers. Second, they all pursue their work – and the rest of their lives – with great intensity. Third, they see connections between their work and the rest of their lives that may or may not be obvious to the casual observer.
Here is an image of me, somewhat outside of the context of my work, with a few of my favorite things. You may well ask what connects a collection of guitars to directing a DOE national lab. Well, the Ames Laboratory does the fundamental science in chemistry and physics, and the applied science that allow new materials to be invented and engineered for use in products that we all use. The guitars in my collection all contain non-traditional materials such as polymers, metals, composites, and even ceramics (in some of the magnetic pick-ups). As a materials scientist, I am fascinated with the ways in which materials affect the performance of the products in which they are used, and these guitars provide endless examples of materials chosen for various reasons, both good and bad, with varying degrees of success.
Read on to see how some of the Ames Laboratory’s scientists relate their work to the rest of their lives.
In this issue, we’ve also highlighted some of the work being done by the Midwest Forensics Resource Center. The MFRC serves regional partners, particularly state crime laboratories, in some 16 states. Ames Laboratory researchers are working to bring basic research techniques and knowledge to bear in identifying new ways to make connections between evidence and criminal activities.