Scientists announce research focus for LBNL

Councilman Jeff Ritterman during a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory meeting about proposed research at the new Richmond Bay Campus.

Councilman Jeff Ritterman during a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory meeting about proposed research at the new Richmond Bay Campus.

Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Richmond Bay Campus
will focus on biosciences that affect energy production, environment, and human health
scientists from the lab and the University of California said Thursday.

The scientists explained the highlights of research projects to come for an audience of
more than 100 people at the Memorial Auditorium. Research proposals included a range
of topics, from local rainwater catchment and filtration systems to biofuel development.
Jay Keasling, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, said that he’ll be
trying to understand how microbiology can further vaccinations for widespread diseases
like malaria.

After hearing about opportunities for collaboration between disciplines, audience
members asked the panel about using the new facility as an educational center for
Richmond youth.

“This is an opportunity to immerse in the community,” said Adam Boisvert, a program
coordinator with Urban Tilth.

While much of the research presented had a worldwide scope, several projects could have
implications for Richmond. Boisvert sounded particularly interested in soil quality and
remediation, a process to decontaminate polluted soils. “The science is relevant, so why
not use community spaces for research and bring some youth along,” he said.

The presentation also included information about BLIPS, an ongoing Berkeley Lab
initiative to recruit summer interns from local high schools, including Richmond High.
The new facility would allow the program to expand beyond the 12 students it currently
serves in the summer.

“There is no reason why a kid from Richmond can’t be a postdoc,” said Councilman Jeff
Ritterman. “We’re interested in green tech and clean tech jobs.”

The University announced its plans to develop the second campus in Richmond earlier
this year. The campus will consolidate the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab bioscience
programs, which operate at five facilities around the East Bay, and will
bring an initial staff of 800. It’s not expected to be complete until 2017.

A handful of audience members voiced concerns about safety at the new facility,
including waste disposal and warning systems for emergencies.

“We’ve been doing this for 80 years and haven’t had an accident,” said Graham Fleming,
UC Berkeley’s vice chancellor for research.

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