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December 2001

The Laboratory
in the News

Commentary by
Rokaya Al-Ayat

Simulation-Aided
Design of
Microfluidic Devices

Small Science
Gets to the Heart
of Matter

When Lethal
Agents Rain from
the Sky

Technology to
Helps Diabetics

Patents

Awards

 

 

Rokaya Al-Ayat
Director, Laboratory Science and Technology Office

Fostering Innovative Science and Techonology


THIS issue of Science & Technology Review looks at several exciting Laboratory projects that got their start with Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) Program funding. Many of the research thrusts that began several years ago under LDRD sponsorship are the foundation of Laboratory programs today. Over the years, LDRD has become the Laboratory’s primary means for pursuing innovative, long-term, high-risk, and potentially high-payoff research in support of our evolving national security mission.
Recent events underscore the importance to national security of LDRD investments in research to counter bioterrorism. For example, one LDRD-sponsored project seeks to develop a model of the actual disease-causing mechanisms within a bacteria pathogen. Such a model represents a strategic first step in understanding, anticipating, and countering threats from rapidly evolving or engineered microbes such as those used in the anthrax attacks. Another LDRD-sponsored project is developing a portable, high-throughput biological threat detection system that can accurately analyze a broad suite of pathogens simultaneously from a single sample. One ongoing project, highlighted in this issue (see the highlight entitled When Lethal Agents Rain from the Sky), models the behavior of drops of liquid at extreme conditions to determine what would happen to liquid-borne toxins or pathogens when a missile carrying chemical or biological agents is intercepted at high altitude.
The development of such scientific and technological innovations draws on the very core of the Laboratory’s unique capabilities and stimulates its intellectual vitality. As a mark of its effectiveness in fostering research and development at the Laboratory, the LDRD Program is well represented by projects that have received prestigious national awards and by patents granted to Laboratory scientists and engineers. With its reputation for sponsoring innovative research and development (R&D) projects, the LDRD Program is a major vehicle for attracting and retaining the best and the brightest technical staff as well as for establishing collaborations with industry, universities, and other scientific and research institutions. The articles presented in this issue demonstrate the value of such collaborations.
Authorized by Congress in 1991 to invigorate R&D at the Department of Energy’s multiprogram laboratories, the LDRD Program enables the Laboratory to directly fund a research portfolio in areas aligned with DOE’s missions and helps develop new capabilities to meet current and future national challenges. Funding for the LDRD Program is set at a maximum of 6 percent of the Laboratory’s annual budget. The LDRD budget of $55 million for fiscal year 2001 sponsors over 195 projects. The projects focus on advancing capabilities in areas vital to our national security mission, including high-performance computing, fundamental materials science, advanced sensors and instrumentation, and energy and environmental sciences.
Each year, projects compete for LDRD funding through an extensive process in which committees composed of senior managers, program leaders, scientists, and outside experts review hundreds of innovative proposals submitted by researchers from across the Laboratory. Selection criteria include innovation, scientific quality, impact, risk, and programmatic and strategic relevance. Every year, the number of deserving proposals far exceeds the funding available, making the selection a tough one indeed. The LDRD Office ultimately forwards its recommendations to the Laboratory director and his deputies, who make the final decision on the LDRD awards.
The projects described in this issue are examples of the broad spectrum of award-winning, cutting-edge research and development funded by the LDRD Program. By keeping the Laboratory at the forefront of science and technology, these projects enable us to meet the challenges of an ever-evolving national security mission.

 



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UCRL-52000-01-12 | January 25, 2001