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The students analyzed diatom images like this one to compare wild and genetically modified strains of these organisms. Credit: Alison Pawlicki/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, US Department of Energy.

Students often participate in internships and receive formal training in their chosen career fields during college, but some pursue professional development opportunities even earlier.

Alex Johs at ORNL's Spallation Neutron Source

Sometimes solutions to the biggest problems can be found in the smallest details. The work of biochemist Alex Johs at Oak Ridge National Laboratory bears this out, as he focuses on understanding protein structures and molecular interactions to resolve complex global problems like the spread of mercury pollution in waterways and the food supply.

The illustrations show how the correlation between lattice distortion and proton binding energy in a material affects proton conduction in different environments. Mitigating this interaction could help researchers improve the ionic conductivity of solid materials.

Ionic conduction involves the movement of ions from one location to another inside a material. The ions travel through point defects, which are irregularities in the otherwise consistent arrangement of atoms known as the crystal lattice. This sometimes sluggish process can limit the performance and efficiency of fuel cells, batteries, and other energy storage technologies.

Ryan Kerekes is leader of the RF, Communications, and Cyber-Physical Security Group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Photos by Genevieve Martin, ORNL.

As leader of the RF, Communications, and Cyber-Physical Security Group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Kerekes heads an accelerated lab-directed research program to build virtual models of critical infrastructure systems like the power grid that can be used to develop ways to detect and repel cyber-intrusion and to make the network resilient when disruption occurs.