Lab physicist Hope Ishii named to Alameda County women’s hall of fame

April 23, 2007

Hope Ishii (right) displays cometary and interplanetary dust samples from the NASA Stardust mission to members of the media during a press event last year. (Download Image)

Lab physicist Hope Ishii named to Alameda County women’s hall of fame

LIVERMORE, Calif. – Lab physicist Hope Ishii has been selected to the Alameda County Women’s Hall of Fame as the 2007 Outstanding Woman in Science. She will receive her award, along with nine other winners, on Saturday, April 28, during a special ceremony at the Fremont Marriott Hotel.

Ishii will be honored for research she performed as part of the Lab’s Stardust team. The NASA Stardust mission was launched seven years ago to capture particulate materials from the comet Wild 2. These bits of dust offer a snapshot of the building materials available around the time that planets were forming.

“It’s a real honor to receive this award on behalf of the research the Lab’s Stardust team did as a whole,” Ishii said. “It’s good to know you can have an impact.”

When the mission was launched, no one knew exactly how to extract the minuscule particles trapped in aerogel without damaging or contaminating the sample.

That’s where Ishii came in. Ishii developed a way to extract the samples from the material using ultrasonic diamond blades. She determined that, at a certain ultrasonic frequency, the diamond blades create a clean slice into the sample without damaging or
contaminating it.

Ishii is the fifth woman from the Laboratory to be inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame. Previous winners include scientists Dona Crawford, Claire Max, Ellen Raber and Tammy Jernigan.

Most recently, Ishii was one of more than 200 investigators worldwide that published several papers in a series of analyses of the space dust in the journal Science . Ishii and Livermore colleagues determined that during Wild 2’s formation, it gathered materials that formed much closer to the young sun than anticipated. Ishii and others are analyzing these tiny particles at the angstrom scale with the SuperSTEM (scanning transmission electron microscope) on site at Livermore.

“We’ve finally seen the results of all our hard work,” she said. “It’s like planting a seed and after weeks and weeks, you finally see a sprout.”

Ishii joined LLNL in 2004 as a postdoctoral student and recently was hired as a full-time physicist. She earned her bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering from Cornell University; a master’s degree in physics and engineering physics from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden; and a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from Stanford University.

Prior to joining the Laboratory, Ishii worked at Naval Research Labs, Hewlett-Packard and Hitachi Global Storage Technologies.

But Ishii doesn’t keep her science to herself. She’s been a speaker at LLNL’s Science on Saturday public lecture series, LLNL’s Science and Technology Education Program for high school physics teachers; a Science Buddies adviser; recruited and organized volunteers for Expanding Your Horizons in Science and Mathematics Conference; a frequent participant in Take Your Daughter to Work Day; and a judge in the Tri Valley Science and Engineering Fair.

The Women’s Hall of Fame Awards are bestowed each year in 10 categories. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors, the Alameda County Commission of the Status of Women and the Alameda County Health Care Foundation sponsor the awards.

Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a national security laboratory, with a mission to ensure national security and apply science and technology to the important issues of our time. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.