Feature Article

29-Jul-2020

Virtual lecture series finale connects interns to ongoing COVID-19 research

DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

As a final milestone in their summer internships, students participating in the 2020 Office of Science Summer Internship Virtual Lecture Series attended a final seminar on July 22, 2020 that demonstrated how the Department of Energy's (DOE) National Laboratories are researching COVID-19 and connecting students to the labs' vibrant science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) communities.

Between June and July 2020, the DOE Office of Science, in collaboration with 17 DOE National Laboratories, hosted a series of virtual seminars to help enrich students' summer experiences at the laboratories. The lecture series was open to any students who had summer appointments at any of the 17 national labs, with over 5,000 different students invited to participate. Each session covered a different component of the DOE and national labs' operations, from DOE science and technology endeavors to a panel led by graduate STEM students. The seminar on July 22 was especially timely and impactful, as it addressed DOE's response to COVID-19.

"NVBL represents the DOE's continued determination to find solutions to urgent challenges around the world, using some of the most advanced scientific facilities and professionals this country has to offer. Though this challenge is unprecedented, every one of us makes a difference, as we work together to tackle COVID-19." -- Dr. Chris Fall, director of the Office of Science

At the virtual lecture on July 22, scientists in the panel told students how the National Virtual Biotechnology Laboratory (NVBL) is addressing key issues related to the pandemic. The NVBL, a consortium of DOE National Laboratories focused on response to COVID-19, with funding provided by the Coronavirus CARES Act, combines the efforts of all 17 national laboratories.

"NVBL represents the DOE's continued determination to find solutions to urgent challenges around the world, using some of the most advanced scientific facilities and professionals this country has to offer. Though this challenge is unprecedented, every one of us makes a difference, as we work together to tackle COVID-19," said Dr. Chris Fall, director of the Office of Science.

Martha Head, director of the Joint Institute for Biological Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, shared with the students her work on the NVBL's Molecular Design for Medical Therapeutics project. This project applies supercomputers, nanoscience and other national lab resources to develop therapeutic treatment for COVID-19. Joseph "Pat" Fitch, associate laboratory director for Los Alamos National Laboratory, is working on NVBL's COVID-19 Testing R&D project to create better diagnostic tests for the virus.

NVBL is also fixing indirect problems stemming from COVID-19. As discussed by Oak Ridge's Manufacturing Systems Research group leader Lonnie Love during the panel, the NVBL's Manufacturing project works to improve the supply chain response to COVID-19 with more efficient production and distribution of face masks, ventilators and other essential equipment. Already, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has helped the NVBL test new 3D-printed nasopharyngeal swabs.

"I find it wonderful that our interns had a front-row seat to the groundbreaking work we're undertaking against COVID-19," said Stephen Streiffer, deputy laboratory director for science and technology for Argonne National Laboratory and co-leader for NVBL. "Unique, first-hand experiences like this pave the way for the next generation of STEM leaders, who will continue to develop scientific solutions for grand challenges worldwide."

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This work was supported in part by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science.