- Building collaboration in synchrotron’s glow
Karen A. Newman
Growing up in the shadow of Fermilab, home to
what was for many years the world’s highest-energy synchrotron, we followed
every groundbreaking and history-making event at “the lab” from the
moment when its future in Batavia, Ill., was announced. We let words and phrases
such as “accelerator” and “Tevatron” and “quark,”
“atom smasher” and “Higgs boson” slip into our vocabulary
as easily as kids today embrace every new digital game and technology.
Through newspaper reports and visits to the facility, I learned
of the many collaborative efforts that gave Fermilab life and kept it funded and,
in so doing, advanced the world’s understanding of the particles of matter
and brought the world to our door.
Now, another joint effort, several years in the making, has come
to our attention. Though different in scale and mission, this project also is the
result of the efforts of many dedicated scientists and supporters from several universities,
and it, too, has a synchrotron at its core.
The project is a facility called IRENI (infrared environmental
imaging), built to advance a technique that uses infrared chemical imaging with
multiple beams. The method offers high-resolution pictures of the molecular composition
of tissues with unprecedented speed and quality, according to its developers.
Installed at the Synchrotron Radiation Center (SRC) at the University
of Wisconsin-Madison (UWM), IRENI cuts the amount of time needed to image a sample
from hours to minutes, while quadrupling the range of the sample size. The technique
could have applications beyond medicine, in pharmaceutical drug analysis, art conservation,
forensics and more.
Carol Hirschmugl, a physicist at UWM, led a multi-institutional
team of investigators in a demonstration of its capabilities in March, and results
were published online in Nature Methods on March 20. Hirschmugl and UWM scientist
Michael Nasse built the IRENI facility, where the current work is a collaboration
among the labs of Rohit Bhargava, assistant professor of bioengineering at the University
of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and pathologists Virgilia Macias and Andre Kajdacsy-Balla
at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The national user facility at the SRC is funded by a $1 million
grant from the National Science Foundation’s Major Research Instrumentation
Program. It is quickly attracting other projects.
We applaud the desire and the effort that have gone into the development
of this project, and the work and drive that will sustain it in the future. We look
forward to the advances in areas both known and as yet unknown that will come from
the work undertaken at IRENI. And, most of all, we celebrate the teamwork that makes
possible IRENI and Fermilab and countless other research facilities around the world.
As for Fermilab, it has been announced that the Tevatron will
be retired later this year, closing another chapter in the lab’s long history
but opening another for explorations in different directions, and for new collaborative
efforts for the scientific community.
Enjoy this issue.
- A device that uses superconducting magnets to bend or accelerate charged particles. It can be used to etch very fine high-density patterns on integrated circuits.
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