Staff members from across the Department of Energy’s national lab network helped convey the contributions of the national laboratories to Congressional members and staff during National Lab Science Day. The event was held Wednesday, April 20, in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
The event centered on five theme areas: Science and Computation, Science and Energy, Science and the Environment, Science and Facilities and Science and the Universe. Multi-lab teams developed and staged the displays, which blended hands-on displays, videos and very short presentations.
Under the “Science and Energy” umbrella the Joint BioEnergy Institute’s Irina Silva and Jenny Mortimer collaborated with Idaho National Laboratory in the “From Biomass to Biofuels” display. With a hands-on demonstration the steps involved in advanced biofuels production were illustrated: from biomass improvement and deconstruction to microbial engineering. The enabling technologies such as microfluidics devices were also showcased at the event. These micro scale engineering techniques served as an example of a technology that has been successfully used by the national laboratories to increase throughput and accuracy, whilst reducing cost in bioenergy research.
The timing of this event was perfect as that same day, the U.S. Senate passed the first broad energy bill since 2007. Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, co-author of the bill, participated in the DOE event. Other elected officials attending included Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin, Idaho Sen. James Risch, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, Illinois Representatives Randy Holtgren and Bill Foster, Tennessee Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, and Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse. Staff from many senators’ offices also attended.
After hosting a roundtable discussion of the importance of the national labs, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz led elected officials on a tour of the theme areas.
Berkeley Lab Director Mike Witherell also attended and browsed the displays, as did former Director Paul Alivisatos, who was one of three invited participants in the discussion with Moniz.