News Release

Several Berkeley Lab scientists to present talks at 2018 AAAS Annual Meeting

Quantum materials, future biotech products, plant microbiome research among the presentations

Peer-Reviewed Publication

DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Several scientists from the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) will present talks at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to be held Feb. 15 - 19 in Austin, Texas. Topics include a new model for science innovation, new ways to search for dark matter, and developments in advanced bioenergy.

Sequence-Based Approaches to Plant Microbiomes

Saturday, February 17
4:00 - 04:30 PM
Austin Convention Center - Room 17b

Plants associate with diverse microbial communities in the rhizosphere, endosphere and leaf surfaces. In multiple plant species, we find that different plant compartments (e.g. rhizosphere and root endosphere) harbor unique microbial communities heavily influenced by the soil, surrounding environment and host genotype. These plant-associated microorganisms possess characteristic genes, operons and genomic features as compared with phylogenetically related non-plant-associated isolates. Model laboratory ecosystems enable hypothesis-driven investigations of these microorganisms and their associations with plants.

Speaker: Susannah Tringe (staff scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, a DOE Office of Science User Facility operated by Berkeley Lab)

Constructing Plant Microbiomes to Improve Reproducibility of Experiments

Saturday, February 17
3:30 - 5:00 PM
Austin Convention Center - Room 17b

Tringe's talk is part of a scientific session, entitled "Constructing Plant Microbiomes to Improve Reproducibility of Experiments," which was co-organized by Trent Northen, a senior scientist in Berkeley Lab's Environmental Genomics and Systems Biology division. The session focuses on emerging laboratory approaches to constructing plant-associated model microbiomes, to discover the molecular mechanisms that mediate microbe-microbe and microbe-host interactions.

Cyclotron Road: A New Model for Science Innovation

Saturday, February 17
10:00 - 10:30 AM
Austin Convention Center - Room 18D

Cyclotron Road empowers hard science innovators to advance their ideas from concept to startup and viable first product, positioning them for broad, long term societal impact. Ilan Gur, the founding director of Cyclotron Road, will discuss how the program has created a home for entrepreneurially-minded innovators at Berkeley Lab to advance their ideas from breakthrough idea to the point where a viable business model can be paired with the technology project.

Speaker: Ilan Gur (director of Cyclotron Road, Berkeley Lab's program for scientists looking to advance their research to the point of commercial viability)

Quantum Materials for Novel Energy and Information Technology Applications

Sunday, February 18
11:00 - 11:30 AM
Austin Convention Center - Room 18C

The term "quantum materials" has recently come into vogue for solids whose properties can only be explained, even qualitatively, by quantum mechanics. The past decade has seen both new insights into old problems, such as magnetism and superconductivity, and remarkable discoveries about new kinds of electronic order, many of which originate in topology. This talk reviews recent advances in the area of quantum materials and their potential applications for energy and information technologies.

Speaker: Joel Moore (faculty scientist in Berkeley Lab's Materials Sciences Division)

Theoretical Perspective on Searches for Low Mass Dark Matter

Sunday, February 18
3:30 - 04:00 PM
Austin Convention Center - Ballroom E

The nature of the dark matter, which shapes the structure and evolution of our Universe, remains a pressing open problem. One way physicists search for dark matter is through rare, weak interactions with electrons and nucleons in underground detectors. Zurek discusses new ideas to search for dark matter utilizing novel quantum phases of matter. These ideas can extend the reach of underground detectors to lighter dark matter many orders of magnitude beyond current capabilities.

Speaker: Kathryn Zurek (senior scientist in Berkeley Lab's Physics Division)

Future Biotechnology Products: What's Coming Down the Pike?

Sunday, February 18
4:00 - 04:30 PM
Austin Convention Center - Ballroom G

Recent advances in engineering biology have greatly enabled the modification of plants, animals, and microbes for scientific discovery and for development of new products of biotechnology. This presentation will describe types and examples of emerging biotechnology products -- some familiar and some completely different from those on the market today -- that are likely to be developed in the next 5 to 10 years, products that may influence our thinking about some of the products we currently buy. For example, what is beef or milk if it comes from a laboratory instead of a cow?

Speaker: Mary Maxon (Associate Laboratory Director for Berkeley Lab's Biosciences Area)

Driving the Future: Discovery and Development of Advanced Bioenergy

Sunday, February 18
4:30 - 05:00 PM
Austin Convention Center - Room 19A

The development of cost-effective and energy-efficient processes capable of transforming a wide range of non-food lignocellulosic biomass into biofuels and bioproducts is hampered by roadblocks primarily associated with affordability and scalability. The Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) is an integrated project between 11 leading academic and national laboratory research institutions that addresses these roadblocks and establishes viable conversion pathways for the production of infrastructure compatible biofuels and bioproducts. This presentation will highlight research efforts underway at JBEI, including recent advances in bioenergy crops, biomass deconstruction, metabolic engineering and synthetic biology.

Speaker: Blake Simmons (Chief Science and Technology Officer, Joint BioEnergy Institute, and Division Director of Biological Systems and Engineering at Berkeley Lab)


Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world's most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab's scientific expertise has been recognized with 13 Nobel Prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. For more, visit

DOE'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, please visit

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