The Department of Energy Office of Science operates some of the world’s most advanced instruments and facilities. Planning and building the best tools for science can require as much expertise and precision as research itself.
Each year, the Secretary of Energy recognizes teams that completed major Office of Science projects on time, within budget, and ready for their science missions. The Project Management Awards are based on cost and schedule, complexity, problem solving, communication, and other achievements.
The three awardees for projects completed in fiscal year 2020 are providing new research capabilities in cosmology, genomics, and materials science. The Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) is collecting data on millions of galaxies. Two new buildings offer modern research space at Lawrence Berkeley and Argonne national laboratories.
Acting Under Secretary for Science and Energy Kathleen Hogan presented the awards at a virtual ceremony on October 25. The federal project manager for each accepted the award on behalf of the project team.
Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument
Scientists are studying the nature of a mysterious force in the universe—dark energy—with the aid of a powerful new instrument.
“There is compelling evidence that dark matter and dark energy are pervasive, accounting for 95 percent of the mass of the universe,” said Hannibal Joma, DESI federal project director. “Dark matter seems to be holding the clusters of the galaxies together, while dark energy is pushing the galaxies and clusters apart, causing universe expansion to accelerate.”
DESI observes dark energy’s effects through the spectrum of light that galaxies emit as they are pulled apart. To do so, DESI uses complex, precision lenses and thousands of robotic parts. The project will scan 35 million galaxies over the next 5 years.
DESI was installed in 2020 at the Mayall Telescope at Kitt Peak, Arizona. Researchers began collecting data in summer 2021. In all, more than 70 institutions and 500 scientists were involved.
Led by DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the project overcame technical challenges. Even the most complex parts of the instrument were completed on time. The team also worked hard to collect data needed to commission the instrument as the COVID-19 pandemic hit in spring 2020. The project finished almost $2 million under budget.
Integrative Genomics Building
DOE’s Joint Genome Institute (JGI) at Berkeley Lab provides scientists with cutting-edge genomic capabilities related to energy production and the environment. Also located at Berkeley Lab, DOE’s Systems Biology Knowledge Base (KBase) is a world-class data resource for biologists. Scientists often use KBase to analyze and share data they produce at JGI. Now, the Integrative Genomics Building (IGB) brings JGI and KBase into the same research space.
The IGB project delivered efficient laboratory and office space for 300 scientists near other bioscience activities on the Berkeley Lab campus.
“The co-location of JGI and KBase with other biosciences-related research activities advances the SC [Office of Science] mission,” said Hemant Patel, IGB federal project manager.
Patel said scientists will use IGB to study plant and microbe interactions important to improving biofuel feedstocks, understanding greenhouse gas fluxes, and other energy and environmental research.
IGB is itself environmentally sustainable. The building is 31 percent better than the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers standard.
The project team overcame challenges such as rising construction costs to finish on budget and 10 months ahead of schedule in February 2020.
Materials Design Laboratory
The Materials Design Laboratory (MDL) at Argonne National Laboratory supports the entire life cycle of energy-related materials research. Research there will range from theory and simulation to application of new materials and processes.
“The MDL is a flexible state-of-the-art science laboratory facility, housing a variety of highly specialized labs,” said Jurgis (George) Paliulionis, the MDL federal project director.
The four-story building contains radiological, vibration-sensitive, and wet chemistry laboratories. It also includes office and meeting space for 100 researchers and staff.
The Chicago Building Congress recognized the MDL with its 2020 Merit Award in the “Commercial Construction Over $50M” category. The American Concrete Institute Illinois Chapter for Excellence in Concrete Construction also awarded the MDL in its “Mid-Rise Buildings” category.
Some of MDL’s sustainable design features include high-efficiency lighting, efficient heating and cooling systems, recycled materials, and electric vehicle charging stations.
The project team completed the project on budget and 16 months ahead of schedule in December 2019.
The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please the Office of Science website.