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Science Magazine Breakthrough of the Year Contest

Pint-size neutrino, Photo: Jean Lachat Courtesy of University of Chicago

A PNNL technology was recently named a finalist and runner-up in Science magazine's 2017 People's Choice for Scientific Breakthrough of the Year Contest. Among over 12,000 votes, PNNL's pint-size neutrino detector was voted into the final four and subsequently voted runner-up, making this collaborative effort one of the most significant scientific developments of the year.

The size of just a camping lantern or milk jug, the pint-size detector observes coherent elastic scattering of neutrinos off nuclei in a way that has eluded detection and remained just a theory for over 40 years. This year, physicists spotted neutrinos, the most elusive subatomic particles, pinging off atomic nuclei in a new way and in a way that didn't require the massive hardware usually used to detect neutrinos. The neutrino detector developed by PNNL weighs about 32 pounds, while other neutrino detectors weigh tons.

This interaction offers new opportunities to study neutrino properties and to minimize detector size. For example, such small neutrino detectors might someday help monitor nuclear reactors to ensure they are running according to nuclear nonproliferation regulations, or search for even-more-elusive "sterile neutrinos." By comparing coherent neutrino scattering from different nuclei, physicists might also probe nuclear structure in a new way.

The research team for this incredible work includes Todd Hossbach, John Orrell, and Cory Overman, all of the National Security Directorate. Their work was featured on the cover of Science in September 2017, and the contest was covered in the Tri-City Herald.

Science named another local achievement as its top 2017 scientific breakthrough of the year – the first detection of gravitational waves from the massive, fiery collision of two neutron stairs. These waves were detected as the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) near Hanford in Richland.

Photo: Jean Lachat Courtesy of University of Chicago

Three National Security Technologies Receive R&D 100 Awards

PNNL received a total of seven R&D 100 Awards this year, ranking these technologies among the most innovative scientific and technological breakthroughs of the year, as selected by R&D Magazine. Three of the seven technologies have direct national security applications.

Acoustic Gunshot Detector

Acoustic Gunshot Detector - Gunfire sensor

Active-shooter detection systems are generally designed for outdoor, urban environments. But now, researchers at PNNL have created a gunshot detector specifically for indoor environments, such as schools and public buildings. The small, inexpensive device is battery powered and can connect wirelessly to existing security systems. It can distinguish between gunshots and other sounds. The device has already been licensed to commercial companies for integration into lockdown and reporting systems.


IRcell - Tiny fractions of chemicals identified

Scientists need to rapidly identify trace gases when detecting toxic industrial chemicals, identifying disease indicators, or monitoring for possible proliferation of nuclear or chemical weapons. PNNL's compact, patented IRcell technology is a dramatic improvement to traditional detection methods, as its design provides greater sensitivity and speed. In addition, it requires only a tiny sample volume for analysis and is compact enough to be used in the field. IRcell has been licensed to IRsweep, a provider of high-performance mid-infrared sensing solutions.

Serial Tap

SerialTap - Cybersecurity for industrial control systems

Most cybersecurity tools and methods are highly sophisticated, designed to protect critical data from attackers around the globe. But some older industrial control systems, such as those that manage the operation of transportation systems and the delivery of water and electricity, cannot interact with today's cybersecurity tools. SerialTap, created by PNNL, is designed to protect these legacy systems. The palm-sized device is an inexpensive, non-intrusive add-on that can monitor and verify the activity in older serial communication systems. SerialTap has recently been licensed to a startup company, Cynash, who is commercializing the tool.

Read more in PNNL's press release.

See Here: Visual Analytics Book Published

User-Centered Evaluation of Visual Analytics

As the world continues to generate massive amounts of computerized data, visual analytics tools help us make sense of it. But how do you make these tools as effective as possible for the end users? A new book by PNNL chief scientist Jean Scholtz is helping visual analytic researchers and developers do just that.

"User-Centered Evaluation of Visual Analytics" lays out best practices and trends in designing and evaluating visual analytics tools. The 83-page book was published in October 2017 by Morgan & Claypool.

Scholtz, a noted expert in user-centered evaluation, had long seen a gap between how such software to" she said. "You must design it based on an understanding of the end users' tasks, data, and thinking processes."

The book recommends enlisting domain experts, or carefully chosen surrogates, to try out various pieces of the software early in the design process. This approach can reveal, for example, whether the software uses the right metadata, whether users understand the data when they apply different filters, and how long it take for users to comprehend a visualization when it changes. Though this process takes more time up front, it dramatically improves the end product, ultimately saving money and time, Scholtz contends.

Her book includes visual analytics case studies adapted from the intelligence and human-computer interaction communities. She also discusses trends in visual analytics that will affect the functionality, and hence the evaluation, of future software. This important publication reinforces PNNL's nationally recognized leadership in the field of visual analytics.

PNNL Collaboration Showcases Mass Spectrometry Research in Royal Society Journal


Congratulations to Andrew Duffin, David Willingham, Benjamin Naes, Greg Eiden, all National Security Directorate, and Zihua Zhu, Earth and Biological Sciences Directorate on their featured cover article in the Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry (JAAS), published by the Royal Society of Chemistry. In collaboration with Colorado State University, the researchers describe a new technique for trace analysis using extreme ultraviolet laser ablation mass spectrometry for improved applications in geochemical, forensic, environmental, and other types of analysis. The paper was published in the June edition of JAAS, a peer-reviewed journal (impact factor 3.379), featuring innovative research on fundamentals, instrumentation, and methods in the determination, speciation, and isotopic analysis of elements within all fields of application.

Visit the Royal Society of Chemistry website to read the full paper or to find out more about how to publish your own papers with one of their 43 peer-reviewed journals.


Journal published the proceedings from U.S.' first-ever international low-radioactivity measurements conference

Conference proceedings for the International Committee for Radionuclide Metrology (ICRM) 2016 Low-Level Radioactivity Measurement Techniques (LLRMT) Conference have been published in a special issue of Elsevier's Applied Radiation and Isotopes journal. The journal captured more than 120 papers resulting from the conference's U.S. debut. PNNL researcher Craig Aalseth was the lead guest editor and Allen Seifert, Jill Brandenberger, Henning Back, and Matthew Douglas were associate guest editors.

PNNL partnered with ICRM to host the LLRMT Conference in Seattle, Washington in late 2016—the first time the conference has been held in the U.S. The event welcomed more than 125 participants from over 20 countries representing metrology laboratories, national laboratories, universities, and other organizations around the globe. Participants shared presentations and hosted discussions on the techniques, applications, and data in the field of low-level radioactivity measurement. Information from the conference, including abstracts, can be found in the full conference program.



National Security Technologies Honored with FLC Awards

Two PNNL teams whose inventions were transferred to the marketplace have been named recipients of the 2017 Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) Awards for Excellence in Technology Transfer. The FLC annually recognizes federal laboratory teams and their industry partners for outstanding technology transfer achievements. PNNL has earned 85 FLC awards since the awards program was established in 1984.

The FLC nomination selection process is very rigorous and the award is ranked one of the most prestigious honors in the Technology Transfer field. Both the PACRAT and Smartphone Microscope teams prevailed amongst an extremely competitive field for the award, further demonstrating the value of their technology transfer stories. Members of each team will attend the annual FLC National Meeting that will be held in San Antonio, Texas on April 26, to accept their awards.

The Smartphone Microscope team includes Rebecca Erikson, Janine Hutchison, Josef Christ, all of the National Security Directorate; Ron Thomas and Gary Spanner, Technology Deployment and Outreach; Derek Maughan, Office of General Counsel; former staff member Cameron Hohimer; and Plastic Inspection Molding's Ken Williams.


Pink Elephant Unicorn

Pink Elephant Unicorn Event Supports Cybersecurity Skills

PNNL hosted its second annual Seattle-based Pink Elephant Unicorn cybersecurity capture-the-flag on Jan. 20-21 at Northeastern University Seattle. The event welcomed more than 70 participants, including students, researchers, and cybersecurity professionals, to solve cybersecurity puzzles and practice security techniques in a friendly capture-the-flag competition. Competitors arrived with all skills levels and backgrounds, including participants from local area colleges and universities, the State of Washington Office of Cyber Security, the U.S. Navy, and Amazon.



Featuring NNSA Graduate Fellowship Program

The latest issue of the DNN Sentinel newsletter contains interviews of the NNSA Graduate Fellowship Program (NGFP) Class of 2015-2016 Fellows supporting the Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. The article introduces this year's 15 DNN Fellows, including what attracted them to the fields of nonproliferation and nuclear security and what they have accomplished during the first few months of their fellowships. The Fellows' one-year assignments span the nonproliferation mission and utilize their mix of technical and policy skills and experiences.


R and D Award

National Security Directorate Team Wins an R&D 100 Award

PNNL received five 2015 R&D 100 Awards, which were announced at the R&D 100 Awards Banquet held Nov. 13 in Las Vegas. These technologies are among the top 100 most innovative scientific and technological breakthroughs of the year spanning private, academic, and government institutions, as selected by R&D Magazine.

Columnar Hierarchical Auto-associative Memory Processing in Ontological Networks, or CHAMPION was one of the technologies awarded. Team members include NSD staff members Shawn Hampton, Rick Berg, Katya Pomiak and Patrick Paulson; Champion Technology Company's Ryan Hohimer, Alex Gibson and Peter Neorr, who licensed the technology; and former PNNL scientist Frank Greitzer. Read the PNNL press release for more information.


MaTEx Releases, Solving Scalability Issues

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory scientists have found a way to combat the issue of scale related to cluster computing. Supported by the Analysis in Motion Initiative, Physical & Computational Sciences Directorate's Abhinav Vishnu, Khushbu Agarwal, Jeff Daily, Vivek Datla, Nitin Gawande, and Mark Greaves (National Security Directorate) have released The Machine Learning Toolkit for Extreme Scale (MaTEx) as a free software download. Designed as a collection of high performance parallel machine learning and data mining algorithms, MaTEx provides a handful of commonly used algorithms in Clustering, Classification and Association Rule Mining that support K-means, Spectral Clustering algorithms, Support Vector Machines, KNN Algorithms for Classification, and FP-Growth for Association Rule Mining.

Mark Greaves

Advancing Innovation in Seattle

Recently Bill Pike, Dave Thurman, Rob Jasper, and Mark Greaves represented PNNL and the Analysis in Motion Initiative at the Xconomy conference, Seattle 2035. At the conference they hypothesized what will be the next big innovation industries that will propel Seattle into the future. PNNL's participation dovetails with NSD's Innovation District Strategy which seeks to leverage the talent pool found in the Seattle metro area to increase our rate of innovation and mission impact. Engagements and partnerships in events such as Xconomy are helping PNNL increase our reputation in the high-tech community.

Social Media Tracking

Using Social Media to Track Outbreaks

Lauren Charles-Smith and Court Corley's abstract on Using Social Media for Actionable Disease Surveillance and Outbreak Management: A Systematic Literature Review has been published by Plos One Journal. The abstract argues that social media may be valuable tools in the disease surveillance toolkit used for improving public health professionals' ability to detect disease outbreaks faster than traditional methods and to enhance outbreak response. The article was featured on October 5, 2015.

IEEE contest winner

Winner of IEEE International Data Visualization Contest

Our very own Dustin Arendt and Yanina Levitskaia's contest submission on Gender Discrepancies in Engineering and Computer Science was selected as overall winner for the IEEE VGP international data visualization contest.

Arendt and Levitskaia's work focuses on leveraging a new technique called "storyline visualization" to convey patterns and trends within datasets, using storylines to illustrate "common paths" hidden within the data. The visualization provides a more effective way to see the relationships between the common paths of interest in, and to trace the flow between groups over time.

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