A small 4-wheeled robot carrying a plastic container nearly stole the show—and the ballots—at the inaugural Neutron Scattering Division (NSD) awards ceremony held December 13. The remote-controlled robot cruised up and down the aisles, and then up the stairs to the stage in the packed Spallation Neutron Source’s Iran Thomas Auditorium as it collected and delivered attendees’ ballots for best neutron research paper and best neutron science experiment of the year.

To help recognize the “best of the best” in neutron science and research, NSD employees at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) voted for Best Paper and Best Experiment after attending presentations by three finalists in each category. Designed to be an annual competition, the inaugural event also included awards for Postdoc of the Year, Outstanding Technical Support, Outstanding Administrative Support, Neutron Spirit, and Doing it Better. Each NSD winner in the seven categories walked away with a certificate of recognition and will receive a monetary award.

A robot collected attendees’ ballots for best research paper and best experiment at the inaugural Neutron Scattering Division awards ceremony.

A robot collected attendees’ votes for best research paper and best experiment
at the inaugural Neutron Scattering Division awards ceremony. 

“As you would expect at a world-leading research laboratory, we received a lot of nominations for excellence in research,” said Hans Christen, NSD division director. “The broad range of science represented in the nominations, from quantum and biological materials to soft matter and applied engineering—and everything in-between—was impressive. In fact, we had to recruit scientists from across the laboratory to help us evaluate the entries.”

A nominations review committee was formed, consisting of ten non-NSD scientists recruited from across ORNL and Brookhaven National Laboratory. The volunteer committee helped evaluate nominations for Best Paper and Best Experiment, based on their own expertise in related fields of research, such as experiment design, computational modeling, simulation, quantum materials, soft matter, biological and chemical systems, engineering science, and applied engineering.

The Neutron Scattering Division’s Career Advancement Committee (CAC) then selected three finalists in each of the Best Paper and Best Experiment categories. Winners of the other awards were selected by a joint committee comprised of NSD leadership and the CAC.

2019 NSD award winners

Best Paper
Recognizes a paper’s scientific impact or anticipated scientific impact, intellectual contribution of NSD members, importance of neutron scattering in reaching conclusions, and contributions of NSD members to the paper’s success, regardless of co-authorship.

Winners: “Lattice‐Cell Orientation Disorder in Complex Spinel Oxides”
                 Ke An, John Carruth, Yan Chen, Yongqiang Cheng, Matthew Frost, Carrie Gao, William Heller, Alexandra
and Harley Skorpenske

Best Experiment
Recognizes an experiment’s development of new capabilities, demonstration of the importance of neutron scattering, degree of innovation, formation of new and/or unusual collaborations, combination of contributions, benefit to the user community, and recognition of each member of the team. (Publication of a scientific paper was NOT a requirement for this award and was not considered in the judging.)

Winners (TIE): “Vibrational properties of hydrogen under pressure”
                        Reini Boehler, Yongqiang Cheng, Luke Daemen, Bianca Haberl, Mark Loguillo, Jamie Molaison, and Matt

              (TIE): “In situ battery experiments on NOMAD using cylindrical assemblies”
                        Michelle Everett, Joe Liu, and Harley Skorpenske

Doing it Better
Recognizes an individual or team for innovative, creative, and/or novel activity leading to improvement in capabilities, safety, efficiencies, user program operation, or other area within NSD.

Winners: Saad Elorfi and Chris Redmon
               For outstanding team effort to develop the Liquid Helium Auto-Fill System.
               Non-NSD contributors: Ryan Morgan (RAD) and Mariano Ruiz-Rodriguez (NTD).

Neutron Spirit
Recognizes an individual’s or team’s contribution in making NSD more unique, efficient, productive, and inclusive—in short, making the division a group to be proud of. The award recognizes a wide range of activities, such as team building, outreach, user involvement, mentoring, out-of-the-box thinking, and being a role model for integrity, honesty, and respect.

Winner: Candice Halbert
             For her tireless efforts to increase diversity in NSD and in the STEM field, including coordinating the National Graduate
             Education for Minority Students (GEM) fellowships within NSD.

Outstanding Administrative Support
Recognizes activity by an individual or team in an administrative support role that contributed significantly to the success of the NSD and user facility mission through excellence in support, including activities that happen behind the scenes.

Winners: Keosha Anderson, Sharon Porter, Toni Sawyer, Gaye Smith, and Katerra Sweat
               For exemplary team spirit leading to outstanding support of NSD-organized workshops.
               Non-NSD contributors: Angela Woody (PPU), Lisa Eady (RAD), Billie Wimer (RAD), and Sabine Curry (SPSO).

Outstanding Technical Support
Recognizes an individual or team in a technical support role that contributed significantly to the success of the NSD and user facility mission through excellence in support, including activities that happen behind-the-scenes.

Winner: Melanie Kirkham
             For her dedication to user science, user satisfaction, instrument capabilities, and safety on the upgraded POWGEN

Postdoc of the Year
Recognizes the contributions of a current NSD postdoc in helping drive innovation and keeping NSD at the forefront of science performed in the course of their postdoctoral work, including through scientific excellence, publication in high-impact journals, degree of innovation, team spirit, inclusiveness, and more.

Winner: Anjana Samarakoon
             For his work connecting neutron scattering measurements with insights gained from applying machine-learning
             algorithms and Landau-Lifshitz dynamics models to better understand quantum problems.

NSD thanks all of the volunteers who contributed to the success of the awards selection and ceremony.