In early May 2023, NSF’s ChemMatCARS organized the latest in a series of workshops bringing together users and staff. The purpose was a look ahead to the future of the Advanced Photon Source (APS) as it undergoes a major upgrade of the x-ray source, and the construction of a second, independent beamline that ChemMatCARS is building (funded by the National Science Foundation [NSF]) in order to exploit the capabilities of the upgraded APS and expand research opportunities for its users. The timing of these workshops was propitious. A few meters away, in the adjacent APS storage ring tunnel and experiment hall, installation of the upgraded APS machine was in its earliest stage, while construction-start of the new ChemMatCARS beamline was imminent.

Each workshop in this series concentrated on one of the three major research programs supported by ChemMatCARS: advanced crystallography, liquid interface scattering, and anomalous small-angle x-ray scattering.

In-person and remote participants were welcomed variously by Matthew Tirrell (U of C Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering and ChemMatCARS principal investigator; Ka Yee C. Lee, executive vice president for strategic initiatives and the David Lee Shillinglaw Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the U of C; and John Papanikolas, program director of Chemical Structure, Dynamics, and Mechanisms in the NSF Chemistry Division. Also representing the NSF and delivering opening remarks for the Workshop on Biomembranes was Jarek Majewski, program manager in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences Core Programs.

Highlights of each workshop were descriptions of the new beamline followed by extensive presentations by ChemMatCARS users from universities across the country and ChemMatCARS staff, who detailed the new science to come from the upgraded ChemMatCARS beamline and APS x-ray source.

The first workshop (see the agenda), on May 3, was dedicated to “New Opportunities in Chemistry & Materials Sciences with Anomalous X-ray Scattering.” Workshop organizer Mrinal Bera (ChemMatCARS), manager of the Anomalous Small Angle X-ray Scattering (ASAXS) beamline and program, discussed the ASAXS program’s past accomplishments and future capabilities. The many wide-ranging presentations by ASAXS researchers included “Using ASAXS to Explore Ordering in Soft Materials” by Stuart Rowan (U of C), “Programming Multicomponent Colloidal Crystal Structures Using DNA” by Kaitlin Landy (NWU), and “Synchrotron-Enabled Nanocellulose Research: from Basic Science to New Circular Solutions for Improving Water-Food-Infrastructural Nexus” by Benjamin Hsiao (Stony Brook U).

“New Opportunities in Chemistry & Materials Sciences with Anomalous X-ray Scattering” workshop attendees.


On May 8, the second workshop (see the agenda), organized by Mark Schlossman, Ka Yee C. Lee, Binhua Lin, and Wei Bu, delved into the ChemMatCARS biomembranes program, beginning with an “Overview of Liquid Interface Capabilities and Opportunities for Studies of Biomembranes at ChemMatCARS” by Mark Schlossman, University of Illinois at Chicago and ChemMatCARS Principal Investigator.

Presenters at this workshop detailed a wide range of biomembrane research possibilities at the new ChemMatCARS beamline and associated topics, from “Dynamic Membrane Responses to Molecular and Interfacial Cues” by Rana Ashkar (Virginia Tech), to ”Membrane Protein Folding Lipid-associated Peptides Biophysical Spectroscopy” by Judy E. Kim (UC San Diego), to “Threshold-switchable Particles for Drug Delivery” by Ying Liu (UIC).

“NSF’s ChemMatCARS Workshop on Biomembranes” workshop attendees.

The final workshop in this series, spanning May 13 and 14 (see the agenda), covered “Mail-in Service and Remote Data Collection for Advanced Crystallography” and opened with an introduction from workshop organizer Yu-Sheng Chen, manager of the ChemMatCARS Advanced Crystallography Program.

Presentations in this workshop covered “Advanced Crystallography Program Mail-in” by Tieyan Chang (ChemMatCARS), “Reactivity Principles from Heterogeneous Reaction Sites” by Ted Betley (ChemMatCARS and Harvard U), and “X-ray Diffraction Anomalous Fine structure (DAFS) Analysis of Biomimetic Copper Clusters” by Neal Mankad (UIC).

“Mail-in Service and Remote Data Collection for Advanced Crystallography” workshop attendees.

Following conclusion of the workshops, Binhua Lin, ChemMatCARS executive director and project manager, said, “Every time we bring together representatives of our funding agency and our user institutions we are excited and encouraged to hear their perspectives on the future of our facility and the science we enable.”