The Brightest Lights of Science

Leading scientists from the US and Switzerland describe their work with light sources, instruments that produce bright beams of light to peer into nature’s secrets.

Event Details


swissnex San Francisco
730 Montgomery St., San Francisco, 94111 United States


June 23, 2010 from 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm America/Los Angeles (UTC-07:00)

When a charged particle like an electron is accelerated—jiggled in a mobile phone antenna or forced to turn a corner, for example—it converts some of its energy into light. For forty years, scientists have used synchrotron accelerators to make intense beams of X rays and lower-frequency light to analyze chemical reactions, capture microscopic images of the interiors of cells, and explore the electronic, magnetic, and other properties of materials on the atomic scale.

Today there are more than 50 synchrotron light sources around the world, including Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Advanced Light Source (ALS) and the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL) in the Bay Area, and the Swiss Light Source (SLS) at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) in Villigen. Brighter, faster light sources called free electron lasers (FELs) are also coming online, among them the Linac Coherent Light Source at the SLAC National Accelerator Center and the planned SwissFEL at PSI.

Join experts at swissnex San Francisco to explore the methods and sometimes astonishingly beautiful results of light-source science. Roger Falcone, Director of ALS and Berkeley Lab’s Associate Laboratory Director for Photon Science, will explain how present and future light sources work. Carolyn Larabell, Director of the National Center for X-ray Microscopy at the ALS, shows how CAT scans of biological cells promise molecular-level knowledge of human diseases. Luc Patthey, leader of the research group of Spectroscopy on Novel Materials at the Synchrotron Radiation and Nanotechnology Laboratory at PSI, presents the Swiss Light Source and the future X-ray free electron laser, SwissFEL.

This event is produced by swissnex San Francisco and part of the U.S.-wide program ThinkSwiss-Brainstorm the Future. As a leading country in science, research, and technology, Switzerland is working with its American counterparts to address key global topics such as sustainability to better understand trends and arrive at solutions.


6:30 pm  doors open
7:00 pm  presentations and Q&A
8:30 pm  reception
10:00 pm  doors close


Luc Patthey

Luc Patthey leads the research group of Spectroscopy on Novel Materials at the Synchrotron Radiation and Nanotechnology Laboratory at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Villigen, Switzerland. For 20 years, he has pursued basic and fundamental research with various spectroscopies in solid-state physics using the most advance synchrotron light sources. His research interests include surface phenomena such as molecule interaction and charge transfer dynamics with metal oxide surfaces, and electron interactions in metals or transition metal oxides at low temperature leading to superconductivity. He has published more than 90 scientific papers.
He received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, and spent two years as a postdoctoral researcher at Uppsala University before joining PSI. He is currently a visiting professor at Stanford University and SLAC.


Carolyn Larabell

Carolyn Larabell is professor of anatomy at the University of California, San Francisco, and Director of the National Center for X-ray Tomography (NCXT) at the Advanced Light Source at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She received her Ph.D. in zoology from Arizona State University.
Larabell and her group at NCXT carry out research in cell biology and develop novel technologies and methodologies for biological and biomedical imaging. One of their primary research areas is the development of soft X-ray tomography as a new tool for visualizing the internal architecture of whole, hydrated cells. This emerging technique has several distinct advantages over existing imaging methods, and is now contributing unique insights on cells and their behavior. The NCXT beamline at the ALS at Berkeley Lab is the first soft X-ray microscope in the world to be designed specifically for applications in biomedical and bioenergy research.


Roger Falcone

Roger Falcone is Director of the Advanced Light Source, a third-generation synchrotron at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He’s also a physics professor at UC Berkeley. He received his undergraduate degree in physics from Princeton University in 1974 and earned an M.S. and Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University in 1976 and 1979 respectively.
Falcone’s current research interests focus on the use of ultrafast pulses of X-ray and laser light to study phenomena in condensed matter, molecular, and atomic physics. He was co-author, along with Robert Schoenlein, of a proposal that brought in beamlines 6.0.1 and 6.0.2, dubbed the “Ultrafast X-Ray Facility,” which are optimized for the generation of femtosecond X-ray pulses. The Ultrafast X-ray Facility is the first such facility at a synchrotron radiation source.


Photo: Myleen Hollero

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