November 3, 2005
Vol. 25 No. 4

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    Grants fund collaborations by scientists at Argonne Lab, University

    By Steve Koppes
    News Office

    The University’s Board of Governors for Argonne National Laboratory has selected seven proposals for 2005 Collaborative Research Seed Grants of $80,000 to $100,000 each. The grants are renewable for a second year.

    The recipients come from three divisions of the University and its medical school and six divisions at Argonne. They are the most recent beneficiaries of the seed grant program, designed to enhance the intellectual relationship between the University and Argonne, which has awarded $6.6 million in research funding since it began in 1996.

    Operated by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, Argonne National Laboratory has been the University’s research partner throughout its history. Argonne was formed in 1946 as an outgrowth of the Manhattan Project’s Metallurgical Laboratory at the University, which in 1942 produced the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction.

    The 2005 grant recipients and their projects are:

    Rustem Ismagilov, Associate Professor in Chemistry, and Philip Laible, Argonne’s Biosciences Division—“Microfluidic strategies for high-throughput crystallization of membrane proteins.”

    Lin Chen, Argonne’s Chemistry Division, and Luping Yu, Professor in Chemistry and the College—“Fundamental electronic processes and rational design of novel organic photovoltaic materials for future generation of solar cells.”

    Henry Frisch, Professor in Physics and the College, and Carlos Wagner, Argonne’s High Energy Physics Division—“Joint institute on high energy collider physics.”

    Melina Hale, Assistant Professor in Organismal Biology & Anatomy, and Wah-Keat Lee, Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source—“Use of the Advanced Photon Source to identify physiological and functional anomalies in Drosophila models of disease and development.”

    William Ellingson, Argonne’s Energy Technology Division, and Adam Smith, Associate Professor in Anthropology and the College—“The making of ancient Eurasia: objects within and between the social worlds of the Caucasus, the Steppe and China.”

    Chin-tu Chen, Associate Professor in Radiology, and Liaohai Chen, Argonne’s Biosciences Division—“Radiophage: A new generation of radiotracer and molecular imaging.”

    Andrew Davis, Senior Scientist in Geophysical Sciences and the Enrico Fermi Institute, and Zheng-Tian Lu, Argonne’s Physics Division—“Proposal to develop a novel atom counter for applications in cosmochemistry and geochemistry.”

    The seed grant to Ismagilov and Laible will combine two unique technologies, microfluidics from the University and membrane protein expression from Argonne, to expedite the study of important biological processes at the molecular level.

    The team is especially interested in determining the three-dimensional structure of membrane proteins, which help regulate what goes into or out of a cell, using the high-brilliance X-rays of the Advanced Photon Source. Once the sample materials are obtained using Argonne’s membrane protein expression techniques, it takes weeks or months to produce crystals suitable for structural analysis.

    Ismagilov and Laible aim to cut down crystal-production time to days using microfluidics, a technology that enables researchers to precisely control the flow of fluids through channels thinner than a human hair.

    Hale and Lee will use the Advanced Photon Source to learn how genetic mutations affect the biomechanics and physiology of fruit flies. This study will be done in collaboration with Urs Schmidt-Ott, Assistant Professor in Organismal Biology & Anatomy, Kamel Fezzaa at the Advanced Photon Source, and Mark Westneat of the Field Museum and a Lecturer in the Committee on Evolutionary Biology.

    In earlier research involving beetles and ants, Lee and Westneat demonstrated that the Advanced Photon Source can produce detailed X-ray images of the internal structures of living insects. In its follow-up studies, the team will focus on Drosophila, the fruit fly, a genetic and developmental model organism.

    “There are a number of diseases and disorders that have to do with degeneration of motor systems, for example, problems that affect neural control of feeding,” Hale said. “We believe that imaging Drosophila models for such disorders with the Advanced Photon Source will provide insight into the basic relationship between form and function in such systems.”

    The grant to Ellingson and Smith will enable analysis of ancient artifacts with a variety of innovative scientific instruments at Argonne to gain new insights into how the artifacts were manufactured and used. Which instruments to be used will depend upon the material in question.

    This technology will include an X-ray CAT scanner built at Argonne that generates three-dimensional images. The research team also may use some of Argonne’s patented laser-based analysis systems, or its advanced ultrasound systems. “Really, every technique that we will be using has a medical analog,” Ellingson said.

    Ellingson, Smith and colleagues from the Consortium for Advanced Radiation Sources also will use the high-brilliance Advanced Photon Source to analyze large assemblages of materials. “Previously, archaeologists have been restricted to analyzing one or two artifacts,” Smith said.

    “Through our collaboration with Argonne, we will be able to examine, for example, the contents of a room” and define the composition and structure of its ceramic, stone and metal remains.