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Press Release: New Deputy Directors Appointed at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory

Date Issued: October 18, 2005




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Stanford Professors Piero Pianetta, a physicist, and Britt Hedman, a chemist, will become the new deputy directors of the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL) at the Department of Energy's Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC).

Former deputy director Joachim Stöhr, who became the director of SSRL on Oct. 1, made the announcement Oct. 17 at the 32nd Annual SSRL Users' Meeting. The laboratory produces beams of brilliant x-rays that can look inside materials and see how they are made and function, and unravel the complicated structures of large biological molecules. Such forefront research provides valuable information in chemistry, materials science, environmental science, physics, biology and more. SSRL serves a user community of approximately 2,000 scientists from industry, universities and other laboratories.

"I've known Piero for about 30 years and collaborated with him on scientific experiments for almost as long, and I have followed Britt's work for about 20 years," Stöhr said. "I have come to appreciate not only their scientific expertise but also their managerial skills. They are the scientists who I want by my side leading SSRL into a future filled with great scientific opportunities."

Hedman received her doctoral, masters and undergraduate degrees in chemistry at the University of Umeå in Sweden, where she also was a research associate and assistant professor. She came to SSRL and Stanford in 1983, and became an SSRL assistant director in 2001 and a professor in 2002. Her connection with her home country continued from 1996 to 2002 when she was an adjunct professor at the University of Umeå.

Hedman's research field is bioinorganic chemistry, where she studies the electronic and geometric structures of active sites in metalloenzymes and bioinorganic mimetic systems to understand their function. With her staff, she develops methods and instruments for x-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS), a vital tool for scientists using the x-rays generated at SSRL.

"I look forward to working in a team with Piero to support Jo in his new role, and to working with the SSRL staff to promote all aspects of photon science," Hedman said. "I will continue to focus specifically on the development of the structural molecular biology program at SSRL."

Pianetta has practiced science in Silicon Valley for more than 30 years. His undergraduate degree is in physics from the University of Santa Clara, and he received his masters and doctoral degrees in applied physics from Stanford University. After graduation he worked at SSRL and then on the technical staff at Hewlett-Packard Labs before becoming a joint professor of electrical engineering and SSRL in 1982. He has been an SSRL assistant director since 1985.

Pianetta uses synchrotron radiation to characterize the surfaces and interfaces of semiconductor surfaces as well as develop tools for ultra-trace analysis using x-ray fluorescence. He is branching out to the areas of x-ray microanalysis and x-ray microscopy, using the new capabilities of the recently upgraded synchrotron accelerator, called SPEAR3.

"I am delighted to have the opportunity to work with Jo and Britt to bring SSRL into its next stage of evolution with SPEAR3. We will work hard to continue to make SSRL a great place to do synchrotron research," said Pianetta.

by Heather Rock Woods

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