April 20, 2001

Lab names 2001 Teller Fellowship recipients

Pioneering advances in astronomy, environmental remediation, human genomics and physics critical to stockpile stewardship earned four Laboratory scientists Edward Teller Fellowships for 2001.

With Director Emeritus Edward Teller looking on, Claire Max of Physics and Advanced Technologies (PAT), Elbert Branscomb, Biology and Biotechnology Research Program, John Nitao, Energy and Environment and George Kwei, also of PAT, were officially named Edward Teller Fellows for 2001 in a ceremony Tuesday.

Edward Teller Fellowships are tailored to individual recipients in the spirit of the MacArthur Awards. The award is structured to allow recipients the opportunity to do self-directed work for the Laboratory over the next year. This is the second year the fellowships have been awarded.

"As a reward for your effort, you can now do work by yourself without anyone’s help," Teller quipped at the conclusion of a luncheon hosted by Director Bruce Tarter and Jeff Wadsworth, deputy director for Science and Technology.

The fellowships are intended to recognize and encourage scientific accomplishments and to provide fellows the flexibility to explore new areas of interest. Awards vary per recipient and can cover partial salary, post doc assistance and travel expenses related to fellowship projects.

During the ceremony Teller listened as recipients briefly explained their fellowship plans and asked questions. He also invited each fellow to spend an hour with him discussing his or her work.

Elbert Branscomb, who served as director of the Joint Genome Institute (JGI) in Walnut Creek from its creation until late 2000, said he intended to use the fellowship to further explore genes from chromosome 19 — one of the chromosomes the Laboratory had responsibility for mapping. He said he would focus on a large family of genes involved in controlling the expression of other genes in the genome.

Under his leadership the JGI’s facilities were established and effectively completed sequencing goals, achieving international recognition. From 1996 to 1998, he was a member of the Panel of Scientific Advisors for the National Institutes of Health-National Council of Human Genome Research Pilot Project for Large-Scale Sequencing of the Human Genome Physicist George Kwei, a leader in neutron scattering research, said he intends to write a book on science policy in the White House that addresses how policy advisers worked with the president and Congress to set policy. "I want to explain to the general public what science does for them," Kwei said.

Claire Max told Teller about the Laser Guide Star Project she heads and how the adaptive optics at the core of the project improves the resolution of ground-based astronomical telescopes. Recently, she has been instrumental in the creation of the newly formed Center for Adaptive Optics headquartered at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

This Fellowship award will enable Max to devote her effort to a program of intensive cutting edge exploration in adaptive optics and its emerging applications, to continue mentoring the young researchers supporting her efforts, and to define a strong role for the Laboratory within the Center and related communities.

John Nitao said he intends to write a book on subsurface flow and transport for environmental remediation. The book, a collaboration with renowned hydrologist Jacob Bear, will include information on thermal methods for removing contaminants from soil. Nitao is the driving force behind the NUFT code — a versatile computational tool that incorporates the complex physics of multiphase flow and transport of gas, liquids and thermal energy through a fractured porous matrix.

Recently, he has added realistic chemical reactions to NUFT, further expanding the class of problems to which the code can be applied. He has been the technical core of two recent Laboratory Directed Research and Development Strategic Initiatives, and his work has provided substantive support to most of the major programs in Earth Sciences-based activities including CO2 sequestration, Yucca Mountain and the Nevada Test Site groundwater programs.

Noting that this year’s recipients reflect the breadth and depth of scientific talent at the Laboratory, Wadsworth said. "The scientific enterprise and initiatives demonstrated by the accomplishments of the fellows are a hallmark of this Laboratory and very much in the pioneering spirit of the fellowship’s namesake, Edward Teller."