Science on Saturdays

Chabot in Partnership with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Presents Science on Saturdays


Saturday, October 20, 2-3:30pm
Free with admission. This presentation is geared towards a high school student audience, though open to all-ages. High school students get free admission and a t-shirt for attending the program.

Presentation Topic: Laser-Plasma Accelerators: Riding the Wave to the Next Generation X-Ray Light Sources

Particle accelerators have been revolutionizing discoveries in science, medicine, industry and national security for over a century. An estimated 30,000 particle accelerators are currently active around the world. In these machines, electromagnetic fields accelerate charged particles to velocities nearing the speed of light. Although their scientific appeal will remain evident for many decades, one limitation of the current generation of machines is their tremendous size and expense. This presentation, scientists will explore how the use of plasma may serve as a more sustainable way to reduce the size of accelerators and revolutionize applications in medicine, industry, and basic sciences.

Félicie Albert is an experimental plasma physicist at the National Ignition Facility. She earned a Ph.D. in Physics in 2007 from the Ecole Polytechnique in France, a M.S. in Optics from the University of Central Florida in 2004, and a B.S. in Engineering from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Physique de Marseille, France, in 2003. In early 2008, she was hired as a post-doctoral researcher at LLNL and became a permanent member of the scientific staff in 2010. Her areas of interest include the generation and applications of novel sources of electrons, x-rays and gamma-rays through laser-plasma interaction, laser-wakefield acceleration, and Compton scattering. She has conducted many experiments using high-intensity lasers, including NIF, LLNL’s Jupiter Laser Facility, OMEGA-EP, Astra-Gemini, and Stanford’s Linac Coherent Light Source x-ray free electron laser. She is the recipient of a 2016 U.S. Department of Energy Early Career Research Program Award, the American Physical Society 2017 Katherine E. Weimer Award for outstanding achievements in plasma science research, and the 2017 Edouard Fabre Prize for contributions to the physics of laser-produced plasmas.

Dan Burns has been teaching Earth and Space Science and AP Physics at Los Gatos High School since 1992. He is the LGHS science department chair and past president of the Northern California/Nevada American Association of Physics Teachers. He has worked on curriculum development and teacher workshops for the SETI Institute, the USGS, NASA, AAPT, and San Jose State University. He has a BS in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Illinois. Prior to becoming a teacher Dan was a senior research specialist for the Lockheed Missiles and Space Company. Dan is an avid amateur astronomer and astrophotographer and has had several pictures published in astronomy magazines


Saturday, November 10, 2-3:30pm
Free with admission. This presentation is geared towards a high school student audience, though open to all-ages. High school students get free admission and a t-shirt for attending the program.

Presentation Topic: Biomolecular Action Movies: Flash Imaging with X-ray lasers

Proteins are nature’s machines, performing tasks from transforming sunlight into useable energy to binding oxygen for transport through the body. These functions depend on the structural arrangement of atoms within the protein, which was, until recently, only possible to measure statically, in easily crystallized samples via conventional X-ray diffraction. Many physiologically important proteins, especially proteins imbedded in the cell membrane, are notoriously difficult to grow into the large, uniform protein crystals required by this method. In the past decade, X-ray Free Electron Lasers (XFELs), a new type of X-ray source, have begun to come online. Using ultra-bright, ultrafast X-ray pulses of the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, this technology allows us to measure not only static pictures of protein structure but to record “molecular movies” of proteins in action, even for proteins that only produce small crystals. Once a reaction is triggered, X-ray pulses record “frames” as the protein’s structure evolves.



Matthias Frank is a senior staff scientist in the Physical & Life Sciences Directorate at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine at the University of California, Davis. Dr. Frank received his Ph.D. in physics from the Max-Planck-Institute for Physics and the Technical University of Munich in 1993 and joined LLNL as a postdoctoral fellow in 1994. He is currently working on technologies for high-resolution, dynamical imaging of biomolecules and biological nanoparticles with x-ray free-electron lasers, such as the Linac Coherent Light Source at SLAC. He is also working on instrumentation and methods for the analysis of aerosol particles, single cells, trace gases and exhaled breath for applications in homeland security and biomedicine. Dr. Frank has authored and co-authored over 140 articles published in scientific journals and books.


Megan Shelby received a BS in Chemical Biology from the College of Chemistry at the University of California Berkeley in 2008. Subsequently, she performed research in Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division for two years where she studied photosynthetic proteins with X-ray spectroscopy. She received a PhD in Physical Chemistry in 2016 from Northwestern University, focusing on measuring porphyrin and hemoprotein dynamics using time-resolved X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy and was jointly advised by Lin X. Chen and Brian Hoffman. After the completion of her graduate work, Megan joined the Biosciences and Biotechnology Division at LLNL as a Postdoctoral fellow. She is developing new methods for fixed-target serial femtosecond crystallography at XFELs to investigate membrane protein structure.


Erin M. McKay is a Biology teacher at Tracy High School in Tracy, CA. She received her BS in Biology with an emphasis in Plant biology in 2001 and her Science teaching credential in 2002 from University of California Davis. While attending UC Davis she interned at a small startup, AgraQuest, in their microbiology department. After finishing her education, she began teaching at Tracy high in 2002, and began participating in Lawrence Livermore National Lab’s Teacher Research Academy. As of the summer of 2011, she and three other west coast teachers began collaborating with Rutgers University’s Waksman Institute’s student scholar program. This program trains teachers and students how to do genuine Molecular Biology research in the classroom. In the summer of 2012, Erin helped organize and instruct the student scholar program at Lawrence Livermore Lab’s Teacher Research Academy.