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3D imaging study reveals how atoms are packed in amorphous materials

Many substances around us, from table salt and sugar to most metals, are arranged into crystals. Because their molecules are laid out in an orderly, repetitive pattern, much is understood about their structure.

However, a far greater number of substances — including rubber, glass and most liquids — lack that fundamental order throughout, making it difficult to determine their molecular structure. To date, understanding of these amorphous substances has been based almost entirely on theoretical models and indirect experiments.

A UCLA-led research team is changing that. Using a method they developed to map atomic structure in three dimensions, the scientists have directly observed how atoms are packed in samples of amorphous materials. The findings, published today in Nature Materials, may force a rewrite of the conventional model and inform the design of future materials and devices using these substances.

STROBE Nano-imaging center receives five-year, $22 million renewal from NSF

The National Science Foundation has renewed for five years and more than $22 million the cutting-edge Science and Technology Center on Real-Time Functional Imaging (STROBE). STROBE is developing the Microscopes of Tomorrow, and is a partnership between six institutions –– University of Colorado Boulder, UCLA, UC Berkeley, Florida International University, Fort Lewis College, and UC Irvine.

STROBE is advancing functional electron and light-based microscopies by integrating advanced algorithms, big data analysis and adaptive imaging to address issues that have the potential to transform imaging science and technology.

“The Vision of STROBE is to transform nanoscale imaging science and technology by developing the microscopes of tomorrow,” according to Margaret Murnane and Jianwei “John” Miao, the Director and Deputy Director of STROBE. Miao is a professor of physics at UCLA, and member of UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute. Murnane is a Distinguished Professor at CU Boulder, and a Fellow of JILA, a joint institute between CU Boulder and NIST.

Group photo of STROBE center members at a retreat in November 2019.

Group photo of STROBE center members at a retreat in November 2019.

STROBE is pushing electron, X-ray and nano-optical imaging to their limits by integrating state-of-the-art microscopes, with advanced algorithms and big data. Multiscale and multimodal imaging of the same samples are needed to tackle major scientific challenges in quantum, energy, disordered and biological materials. Major scientific challenges include a fundamental understanding of how to design materials at the nanoscale to enable more efficient and robust nano, energy and quantum devices. Other important grand challenges include techniques for imaging disordered materials, or understanding how atoms rearrange themselves in 3-D during the glass transition. “Addressing these major scientific challenges requires the development of new multiscale microscopes and methods, and combining them with common samples, fast detectors, big data, advanced algorithms and machine learning — which could not be accomplished without a center,” Miao said.

STROBE also integrates cutting-edge research with education through the multidisciplinary training of a diverse workforce – with the important goal of preparing a diverse group of trainees for long-term STEM careers through coordinated team projects with academe, national laboratories and industry, new multidisciplinary degree programs, multiple opportunities for professional development and through long-term programs based on best practices for broadening participation in STEM. STROBE’s new techniques, algorithms and instrumentation are in high demand, and STROBE is engaging in multiple routes for knowledge transfer with 77 partners in the academic, national laboratories and industry sectors. Over 92 graduated student and postdoctoral scientists have graduated from STROBE, as well as >125 undergraduate scholars.

Prof. Naomi Ginsberg is the STROBE lead at UC Berkeley, Prof. Jessica Ramella-Roman leads the team at Florida International University, Prof. Kay Phelps is the lead at Fort Lewis College, while Prof. Franklin Dollar is the lead at UC Irvine.

NSF science and technology centers conduct innovative, potentially transformative, complex research and education projects involving world-class research through partnerships among academic universities and industrial organizations in important areas of basic research. STROBE 77 partners span 43 academic, 22 industry and 7 national laboratories, including DOE, NIST, Moderna, 3M, SRC, Intel, AMD and Ball Aerospace.


Congratulations to Kristina Monakhova for Receiving the EECS Demetri Angelakos Memorial Achievement Award

Presented annually to an Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences graduate student who is beyond the preliminary examination and is proceeding to a doctoral degree. The purpose of the award is to recognize students who, in addition to conducting research, unselfishly take the time to help colleagues beyond the normal cooperation existing between fellow students. The award was established in 1979 in memory of Demetri Angelakos, a UC Berkeley student working toward his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at the time of his death.

The altruistic attitude of the recipient may be evidenced in the following ways: volunteering to conduct laboratory procedure sessions attended by colleagues, explaining intricate equipment usage, promoting greater research cooperation, etc. Because of the primary interests of the EECS graduate student in whose name the award was established, the general areas of solid state, optical electronics, electromagnetics and semiconductor electronics will be given first consideration.

Congratulations to Franklin Dollar for Receiving the Tom Angell Fellowship

The Tom Angell Fellowship is awarded annually at the Office of Inclusive Excellence’s Mentoring for Achievement and Excellence event, this fellowship is intended to honor Tom Angell’s contributions as the UCI Graduate Counselor to graduate student wellness and retention.

Awards are open to graduate students, faculty, and postdoctoral scholars.

Award recipients demonstrate outstanding mentorship by going above and beyond their normal duties to create new opportunities to mentor UCI students.

Congratulations to Lauren Mason for Receiving a JEDI Award for her Work on the JILA Culture & Climate Project

Congratulations to Lauren Mason for receiving a JEDI Award, which is given to individuals who have demonstrated positive impact on JILA’s culture of inclusivity and diversity whether prolonged exemplary effort, leadership in impactful activities/goals or contributing to the inclusive and diverse culture of JILA in an extraordinary way. Lauren is working with the JEDI facilitator, Gayle Geschwind, JILA Chief of Operations, Beth Kroger, and JILA’s External Consultant, Regan Byrd to better understand JILA’s culture and climate through surveys and focus groups of graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, faculty, and staff. Phase two of the project will begin soon as JILA, in partnership with the JEDI committee, will begin implementing changes to address the needs voiced in the survey and focus groups.

Congratulations to Dr. Ellen Keister and Dr. Sarah Schreiner for Receiving JILA Jewels for Developing a Hybrid STROBE Summer Undergraduate Research Program in 2021

In a typical summer, STROBE partners with on-campus programs, which provide an additional community of mentors, workshops, events, and training for undergraduate research experiences. This summer, on-campus programs for research experiences for undergraduate students were not offered because of COVID-19. These JILA Jewels are awarded in recognition of Dr. Ellen Keister and Dr. Sarah Schreiner for developing and providing new Zoom trainings and workshops, individual mentoring, and social community gatherings every week this summer for over 30 students across the country.

Congratulations to Dr. Michael Tanksalvala for being awarded an NRC postdoctoral fellowship to work with NIST Boulder Labs

The NIST NRC Postdoctoral Program supports a nationwide competitive postdoctoral program administered in cooperation with the National Academies/National Research Council (NRC). The postdoctoral program brings research scientists and engineers of unusual promise and ability to perform advanced research related to the NIST mission, introduces the latest university research results and techniques to NIST scientific programs, strengthens mutual communication with university researchers, shares NIST unique research facilities with the U.S. scientific and engineering communities, and provides a valuable mechanism for the transfer of research results from NIST to the scientific and engineering communities.

Tutorial: Introduction to Coherent Diffractive Imaging: To Ptychography and Beyond

Coherent diffractive imaging (CDI) comprises a set of imaging techniques that replace image-forming optics by any of a wide array of computer algorithms that retrieve an image from the scatter pattern generated by a coherent illumination beam. CDI is particularly attractive for imaging with short-wavelength light, since it enables diffraction-limited imaging with quantitative phase- and amplitude-contrast. This talk will begin with a brief overview of applications of coherent diffractive imaging, and will then focus on ptychography and a few extensions tailored to various cutting-edge applications. Finally, it will provide a brief introduction to practical aspects of implementing coherent diffractive imaging.

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