Three Ames Lab student employees, Ann Gisleson, ESH&A, Holly Kayser, DMSE, and Nikolas Kinkel, Information Systems, were nominated for the 2013-2014 Iowa State University Student Employee of the Year Award. A total of 87 students from across campus were nominated for the award.

A single student is selected each year for the award and Michael Erickson-Solberg, a student with CALS/CCUR/BCRF, was named recipient of this year's award.

 This group of tips and tricks were suggested by Deb Samuelson in Public Affairs. If you come across some tips or apps that you find handy for your cellphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop, let us know at


Click on the image to go to the "Awesome Tricks."


To meet one of the biggest energy challenges of the 21st century-- finding alternatives to rare-earth elements and other critical materials-- scientists will need new and advanced tools.

The Critical Materials Institute at the Ames Laboratory has a new one: a 3D printer for metals research.

3D printing technology, which has captured the imagination of both industry and consumers, enables ideas to  move quickly from the initial design phase to final form using materials including polymers, ceramics, paper and even food.

But the Critical Materials Institute (CMI) will apply the advantages of the 3D printing process in a unique way: for materials discovery. By doing so, researchers can find substitutes to critical materials-- ones essential for clean energy technologies but at risk of being in short supply.

ImageCMI scientists will use the printer instead of traditional casting methods to streamline the process of bulk combinatorial materials research, producing a large variety of alloys in a short amount of time.

 “Metal 3D printers are slowly becoming more commonplace,” said Ryan Ott, principal investigator at the Ames Laboratory and the CMI.  “They can be costly, and are often limited to small-scale additive manufacturing in industry. But for us, this equipment has the potential to become a very powerful research tool. We can rapidly synthesize large libraries of materials. It opens up a lot of new possibilities.”

The CMI printer, a LENS MR-7 manufactured by Optomec of Albuquerque, N.M., uses models from computer-aided design software to build layers of metal alloy on a substrate via metal powders that are melted by a laser. Four chambers supply metal powders to the deposition head that can be programmed to produce a nearly infinite variety of alloy compositions. The printing occurs in an ultra-low oxygen glove box to protect the quality of highly reactive materials. In a recent demonstration run, the printer produced a one-inch long, 0.25-inch diameter rod of stainless steel in 20 seconds.

The process will overcome some of the obstacles of traditional combinatorial materials research.

“The problem is that it’s been typically limited to thin film synthesis. These thin film samples are not always representative of the bulk properties of a material. For example magnetic properties, important to the study of rare earths, are not going to be the same as you get in the bulk material,” explained Ott.

Combined with computational work, experimental techniques, and a partnership with the Stanford Synchrotron Light Source (SSRL) for X-ray characterization, scientists at the CMI will be able to speed the search for alternatives to rare-earth and other critical metals.

“Now we have the potential to screen through a lot of material libraries very quickly, looking for the properties that best suit particular needs,” said Ott.

This research is supported by the Critical Materials Institute, a Department of Energy Innovation Hub led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory. CMI seeks ways to eliminate and reduce reliance on rare-earth metals and other materials critical to the success of clean energy technologies. DOE’s Energy Innovation Hubs are integrated research centers that bring together scientists and engineers from many different institutions and technical backgrounds to accelerate scientific discovery in areas vital to U.S. energy security.

Ames Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science national laboratory operated by Iowa State University. Ames Laboratory creates innovative materials, technologies and energy solutions. We use our expertise, unique capabilities and interdisciplinary collaborations to solve global problems.

Ames Middle School made a clean sweep of the 2014 Ames Laboratory Regional Middle School Science Bowl here Saturday. They won all three of their morning qualifying matches, then won four matches in the championship round to take the title. They will also join the Ames High School team in representing the Region at the Department of Energy’s National Science Bowl in Washington, D.C. April 24-27.

The Ames team of Isak Werner-Anderson, Stephen McKown, Benjamin Moats, Hector Arbuckle and Will Tibben cruised through the championship match, defeating Council Bluff St. Albert 70-4. The St. Albert team of Maggie King, Gabby Burke, Kyle Barnes, Jackson Dunning and Isaiah Moore gained the final match by battling back after first-round loss to defeat Sacred Heart, Chariton, Adel-DeSoto-Minburn #2, Boone, Central Lee and Union.

The Ames team was coached by Collin Riechert.  Tarra Wiederin coached St. Albert.

Union Middle School of Dysart was third. Twenty-four teams competed in the day-long science and math quiz-bowl style event. Full results of the competition are posted here.


Ames Middle School

Front (l-r): Stephen McKown, Isak Werner-Anderson, Benjamin Moats;
Back (l-r): Tom Lograsso, Ames Lab Director, Will Tibben, Hector Arbuckle,
Coach Collin Reichert.


Ames Laboratory employees and families are invited to attend the sixth-annual Raising Readers of Story County Step Into Storybook event on Saturday, March 29 from 10 a.m. – noon at the ACPC Building at 920 Carroll Ave. in Ames. This year’s Step Into Storybooks is called Exploring Science Through Books and will feature opportunities for children birth – 5 years and their families to explore hands-on science stations.

Ames Laboratory employees donated proceeds of the 2012 Holiday Auction to Raising Readers, and those donations will make it possible for the first 300 children to receive a science picture book to take home with them. Ames Lab will also host several science stations at the event.

For more on Step Into Storybooks:

Raising Readers is seeking several Ames Lab employees to give out science picture books at the event. If interested, please contact Breehan Gerleman Lucchesi at

Joey and his father Andrew explore ramps and balls, in an early-
childhood science activity that promotes engineering, problem-
solving and measurement. This activity and many more hands-on
science stations will be featured at Raising Readers Step Into
Storybook: Exploring Science Through Books event on Saturday,
March 29 in Ames.

The IRA season, from January 1 through April 15, may offer you opportunities to cut taxes and enhance your estate planning. In this article, TIAA-CREF wealth planners Doug Rothermich, JD, and John O’Shea, JD, answer frequently asked questions on IRAs and share their thoughts regarding the current IRA season.

1. Why do many financial providers emphasize IRAs each year beginning in January?

Most people begin to receive their important income tax papers, such as W-2 and 1099 forms, in January, and as a result, start to think about ways of reducing the amount of federal and, possibly, state income tax owed on or before the IRS tax filing deadline of April 15. An IRA can be an effective way of reducing that liability.

Most taxpayers can receive an up-front income tax deduction on contributions to a Traditional IRA. If you open and fund a Traditional IRA by April 15, you can make contributions of up to $5,500 ($6,500 if age 50 or over) of earned income for 2013. You can also contribute the same amount for 2014. If you have not previously made your 2013 contribution, you may choose to contribute for both 2013 and 2014 – a total or $11,000 or $13,000 if you are age 50 or over -- between January 1 through April 15. Any earnings from your contributions grow on a tax-deferred basis until you tap into those funds in retirement.

2. Are you saying that I can contribute to a Traditional IRA in 2014 and deduct the amount against 2013 income?

Yes. If you contribute to a Traditional IRA between January 1 and April 15, you have the option of treating the amount as a contribution for 2013 or 2014. If you don’t specify which year, the financial provider typically reports the contribution for the current year.

3. What if I filed my income tax return before April 15 and learned about this strategy later? Is it too late for me to take advantage of this opportunity?

No, it’s not too late. You can still make a 2013 contribution as long as you contribute by the due date of the federal income tax return, which is April 15 in 2014, not including extensions. In this case, you would make the contribution by that deadline, then file an amended 2013 federal income tax return to claim the deduction and request a refund, if applicable.

Your Retirement Income Options:

You’ve made a lot of sacrifices in order to put away enough money to retire.

 When it’s finally time, do you know how to get the money back?

 There are lots of considerations, rules and tax implications that make these decisions very important and more complex. Relax.

 We can help.

 TIAA-CREF’s workshop leader will help simplify retirement income:

  • Learn the basic rules that govern the most common retirement accounts
  • Gain perspective on when to tap into different assets
  • Discover the flexible income choices TIAA-CREF offers

If you missed this seminar on Feb. 27, you can listen to a recording by clicking HERE. Simply type in any name, hit submit and the seminar slides and audio will appear. The seminar will be available online until March 14.

4. How does the up-front income tax deduction work?

Anyone with earned income who is under age 70½ is eligible to contribute to a Traditional IRA, but the question is whether you can deduct the contributed amount against taxable income. The rules for deductibility vary, depending upon your marital status and income level, referred to as adjusted gross income (AGI).

5. What if my AGI is above the threshold for receiving an income tax deduction?

You can still contribute up to $5,500 each year to a Traditional IRA. If you’re age 50 or over, you can contribute $6,500. There are two benefits to this strategy. First, even though the initial contribution is not tax-deductible, the investment earnings can still accumulate tax deferred until withdrawal. Second, the IRA typically has some creditor protection attributes at the federal and at most state levels, making it particularly attractive to physicians and other professionals who are at a higher risk for professional liability.

Another option is to explore the merits of a Roth IRA. The Roth IRA uses an AGI eligibility threshold that is substantially higher than the tax deduction eligibility threshold for a Traditional IRA. Roth IRA contributions can be made at any age, even after age 70½. And, the contribution amount is the same as with a Traditional IRA — $5,500 for individuals up to age 50 and $6,500 for those age 50 or over. The Roth IRA contribution is not deductible against income tax. However, earnings compound tax free, rather than tax-deferred, and the Roth IRA is not subject to the required minimum distribution rules, which means that the assets can compound tax-free for life if not needed for support.

6. Contribute to someone else’s IRA as a gift

Why would I want to contribute to an IRA as a gift, and how can I do that?

If you want to help a friend or family member, such as a child or grandchild, who may not be able to save for retirement, you can give a financial gift to that person so he or she can contribute to an IRA each year. The friend or family member can contribute to an IRA each year as long as he or she has earned income at least equal to the gifted amount. For example, you could make a gift or contribution for a teenager who has summer employment, a college student working part-time, a young adult just entering the full-time workforce who is trying to pay off student loans, or more established adults who are employed but have not been able to adequately save for their retirement.

Under federal gift rules, you can gift up to $14,000 in 2014 to any person without reporting the gift amount to the Internal Revenue Service, but the IRA contribution rules limit you to $5,500 per person or $6,500 if the person is age 50 or over.

This IRA gift provides you with a way to teach the individual about investing and to discuss his or her comfort level with dealing with market fluctuations as well as the merits of diversifying the IRA investment portfolio in different asset classes, such as stocks, bonds and real estate. This educational process is especially important if this person will eventually serve as your agent under a durable power of attorney, or if this person will inherit a more substantial amount upon your death.

As an added bonus, Traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs have broad creditor protection under federal and most state laws, which can be beneficial to a younger loved one who has professional liability concerns, a bad marriage, creditor issues, or other factors that could put the assets at risk. Consider opening a Traditional IRA or Roth IRA product for a family member.

ImageIf you were raised like me, you were a member of the “Clean Plate Club” at every meal. I don’t know if it’s just a Midwestern thing, but you didn’t leave food on your plate. Your parents always said, “Clean your plate” or “There’s children starving in Africa……”  I’m going to blame my extra 30 pounds on that and we’ll just let it go. 

So what about our kids? We have a lot of new babies and grandbabies in this organization, so it got me thinking. Childhood obesity in this country is of growing concern. So much so, that our First Lady has made it her priority to lead our nation’s kids in healthy eating and exercising.

According to the CDC, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. In 2010, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. Obese youth are higher risk for heart disease, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, and diabetes. These diseases do not discriminate against age. Not to mention the social outcast these kids are made to feel like at school.

Look at your child, not with blinders on. Really look at your child. Is he/she healthy? Do you buy fresh fruits and vegetables and keep them in the house? Do your kids ever see you eating them for a snack? What kind of example are you setting for your kids?

"Parents who underestimate their kids' weight may not take action to encourage healthy behaviors that would improve their child's weight and reduce their risk of future health conditions," says lead author Alyssa Lundahl, a graduate student in the clinical psychology program at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. These findings come after a study out last week showed that kids who are overweight in kindergarten are four times more likely to be obese by eighth grade compared with their normal-weight peers. 51% of parents with overweight or obese children thought their kids were a normal weight.

ImageDon’t rely on school to provide your kids with the necessary exercise. Some schools have recess and gym class and some don’t.  There are so many easy and simple ways to provide your children with exercise that they won’t even know you’re doing it.

  • Put your dog on the leash and everyone take it for a walk.
  • Pump up those bike tires and everyone go for a ride.
  • Go to a local park and throw the Frisbee around.  
  • Remember “Kick the Can”  “Ghost Ghost”  “Hide and Seek”  “Tag”  “Red Light Green Light”???
  • When’s the last time your kids climbed a tree?

When kids are thirsty, give them water, not pop, Kool-Aid or a juice box.

Reduce eating fast food to ONCE a week. Make it a treat to eat out – not a routine.

We love our kids and would never intentionally hurt them. Yet, we really are when you look at the statistics supporting the facts that our children are overweight. There’s no one to blame but ourselves, so we have to fix it. The fix is easy. It’s the same for our kids as it is for us. Eat healthy, get plenty of exercise, and get plenty of sleep.

~ Jean Johnson and your friends in Occupational Medicine

ImageIgor Slowing, a scientist at the Ames Laboratory and adjunct professor of chemistry at Iowa State University, keeps a genealogy tree on the wall of his office—with names, dates, and pictures.

Only it’s not family history; it’s academic heritage.

In academia one can also trace lineage. In the family, each generation nurtures the next.  In academia, each generation of professor nurtures the student, imparting knowledge and encouraging original thought as they earn their doctoral degree.

With pages of paper hanging in a line towards the ceiling, Slowing can trace his academic heritage starting with his research in nanostructured materials for catalysis at Ames Laboratory, and his doctoral research at Iowa State under the late Victor Shang-Yi Lin. From there, his academic heritage goes back on this office wall a few hundred years, to early American academics like Amos Eaton (1776-1842), who co-founded what is now the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York.

“I’ve always loved history in general and the history of science in particular,” said Slowing. “When I began to study chemistry, I was curious to know how I was related to these people that I was reading about.”

And Slowing’s historical research has taken him back even further, to the flowering of scientific thought that occurred in Western Europe during the Renaissance at universities in Padua, Basel, and Paris.

“And before the printing press, it was monasteries that were the centers of academic thought,” said Slowing.

He can trace his academic genealogy over 600 years, to a time when the modern concept of what we now would call “science” was just beginning to emerge from the study of natural philosophy and mathematics.  Down through the centuries, fields of science emerge: astronomy, physics, medicine, chemistry, botany, zoology and more.

Many of his scientific ancestors are a history book unto themselves, like Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a physician who pioneered concepts in public hygiene and modern psychiatry; or Justus von Liebig, a 19th century German chemist and inventor who is credited with the development of modern organic chemistry.

“It is also interesting to trace the emigration of scientists. From Europe, then to the West, and then back again as researchers from the Americas go to Europe and elsewhere for their education,” said Slowing, as his hand traces more recent branches and decades of the tree. It’s a dissemination of knowledge over time that has been affected by culture and geography, politics and war.

Slowing said he’d like to learn more about the scientists in his family tree that are still alive and actively researching—his academic great-grandfathers, as it were. Among them is Harry Gray, a pioneering bioinorganic chemist at the California Institute of Technology whose work Slowing finds fascinating.

“These are scientists actively working in areas very different from mine, and yet their accomplishments keep inspiring my work. The influence of ideas across the years and across scientific disciplines is a great history lesson.”

Ames Laboratory scientists are revealing the mysteries of new materials using ultra-fast laser spectroscopy, similar to high-speed photography where many quick images reveal subtle movements and changes inside the materials. Seeing these dynamics is one emerging strategy to better understanding how new materials work, so that we can use them to enable new energy technologies.

Physicist Jigang Wang and his colleagues recently used ultra-fast laser spectroscopy to examine and explain the mysterious electronic properties of iron-based superconductors. Results appeared in Nature Communications this month.

Superconductors are materials that, when cooled below a certain temperature, display zero electrical resistance, a property that could someday make possible lossless electrical distribution. Superconductors start in a “normal” often magnetic state and then transition to a superconducting state when they are cooled to a certain temperature.

What is still a mystery is what goes on in materials as they transform from normal to superconducting. And this “messy middle” area of superconducting materials’ behavior holds richer information about the why and how of superconductivity than do the stable areas.

“The stable states of materials aren’t quite as interesting as the crossover region when comes to understanding materials’ mechanisms because everything is settled and there’s not a lot of action. But, in this crossover region to superconductivity, we can study the dynamics, see what goes where and when, and this information will tell us a lot about the interplay between superconductivity and magnetism,” said Wang, who is also an associate professor of physics and astronomy at Iowa State University.

But the challenges is that in the crossover region, all the different sets of materials properties that scientists examine, like its magnetic order and electronic order, are all coupled. In other words, when there’s a change to one set of properties, it changes all the others. So, it’s really difficult to trace what individual changes and properties are dominant.

Ames Laboratory scientists use ultra-fast laser spectroscopy to "see" tiny actions in real time in
materials. Scientists apply a pulse laser to a sample to excite the material. Some of the laser light
is absorbed by the material, but the light that passes through or reflected from the material can be used to take super-fast “snapshots” of what is going on in the material following the laser pulse.

The complexity of this coupled state has been studied by groundbreaking work by research groups at Ames Laboratory over the past five years. Paul Canfield, an Ames Laboratory scientist and expert in designing and developing iron-based superconductor materials, created and characterized a very high quality single crystal used in this investigation.   These high-quality single crystals had been exceptionally well characterized by other techniques and were essentially "waiting for their close up" under Wang's ultra-fast spot-light.  

Wang and the team used ultra-fast laser spectroscopy to “see” the tiny actions in materials. In ultra-fast laser spectroscopy, scientists apply a pulsed laser to a materials sample to excite particles within the sample. Some of the laser light is absorbed by the material, but the light that passes through the material can be used to take super-fast “snapshots” of what is going on in the material following the laser pulse and then replayed afterward like a stop-action movie.

The technique is especially well suited to understanding the crossover region of iron-arsenide based superconductors materials because the  laser excitation alters the material so that different properties of the material are distinguishable from each other in time, even the most subtle evolutions in the materials’ properties.

“Ultra-fast laser spectroscopy is a new experimental tool to study dynamic, emergent behavior in complex materials such as these iron-based superconductors,” said Wang. Specifically, we answered the pressing question of whether an electronically-driven nematic order exists as an independent phase in iron-based superconductors, as these materials go from a magnetic normal state to superconducting state. The answer is yes. This is important to our overall understanding of how superconductors emerge in this type of materials.”

Aaron Patz and Tianqi Li collaborated on the laser spectroscopy work. Sheng Ran, Sergey L. Bud’ko and Paul Canfield collaborated on sample development at Ames Laboratory and Iowa State University. Rafael M. Fernandes at the University of Minnesota, Joerg Schmalian, formerly of Ames Laboratory and now at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and Ilias E. Perakis at University of Crete, Greece collaborated on the simulation work.

Wang, Patz, Li, Ran, Bud’ko and Canfield’s work at Ames Laboratory was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science, (sample preparation and characterization). Wang's work on pnictide superconductors is supported by Ames Laboratory’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) funding (femtosecond laser spectroscopy).



DID YOU NOTICE THE LASER? The image above was a graphic illustration created by Ames Lab graphic Grant Luhmann to accompany the paper in Nature Communications. The image was further enhanced by Public Affairs videographer Brian Marczewski to add subtle animation to the beam of laser light!

Rare-earth metals and other materials critical to existing and emerging technologies are facing global shortages now and in the future.

That was the urgent message Alex King, director of the Critical Materials Institute, a U.S. Department of Energy research hub at the Ames Laboratory, presented to a committee of the Parliament of Canada on Tuesday.

ImageKing was asked to testify as a witness to the Standing Committee on Natural Resources of the House of Commons in an ongoing study of the rare earths industry in Canada. He spoke to the committee from Ames via video-conference.

Rare-earth elements possess unique properties, King explained to committee members, and are used in a wide variety of essential technologies, including high performance magnets, highly efficient light sources, and in catalysts for the production of petrochemicals.

“And there are no easy substitutes for them in most of their applications,” said King. “Rare earths are among the most difficult elements to process, and are the hardest to do without.”

King leads the newly created Critical Materials Institute, tasked with finding solutions to rare earth and other critical materials shortages by addressing supply chain weaknesses in three ways:  developing technologies that diversify and expand availability; reducing waste; and reducing demand by finding substitutes. King said over 35 research projects at CMI target specific problems in the supply chain.

Aside from research and development needs, King also identified a lack of processing facilities in North America for rare earth materials.

“Time is our major challenge. We have issues today but it can take 10 years or more to start a mine, and it can take 20 years to invent a new material,” said King. “Shortage situations develop within a matter of months, solutions take a decade, or at best years. We need a better ability to anticipate which materials will become critical and we need increased speed of response.”

King was joined by three other witnesses representing Canadian mining interests: Al Shefsky, president and CEO of Pele Mountain Resources; Peter Cashin, president and CEO of Quest Rare Minerals, and André Gauthier, president and CEO of Matamec Explorations.

The Critical Materials Institute, is an Energy Innovation Hub led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory and it seeks ways to eliminate and reduce reliance on rare-earth metals and other materials critical to the success of clean energy technologies. DOE Energy Innovation Hubs are integrated research centers that bring together scientists and engineers from many different institutions and technical backgrounds to accelerate scientific discovery in areas vital to U.S. energy security.