A lot of the research conducted in powerful magnets ends up having a powerful effect on our day-to-day lives.

A geochemist gets down to earth about how life began on our planet.

Looking at environmental changes that occurred in ancient Earth, a research team finds new evidence of how the planet may handle excess carbon dioxide in the future.

Across disciplines, exciting stuff happens along the boundaries between things. What makes those realms so rich for research, and how do magnets shed light on them?

Studying dissolved organic matter helps us better understand our diverse and changing planet.

The high-tech tools empower scientists studying petroleum and other molecules to make decisions based on advanced data analysis.

Using an advanced technique, scientists discover that one of the most common substances in our everyday lives — glass — is more complex than we thought.

This week at the lab, Patricia Medeiros is fishing for answers using one of the lab’s ion cyclotron resonance (ICR) magnets.

Medeiros (pictured above, standing at right, with her grad students), an assistant professor of marine organic geochemistry at the University of Georgia (UGA), arrived Monday morning with one colleague, two graduate students, dozens of water samples from estuaries around Georgia’s Sapelo Island, and lots of questions. The team will spend the week analyzing the molecular composition of the dissolved organic matter (DOM) in the water, using the ICR Facility’s 9.4 tesla passively shielded magnet.

In collaboration with UGA microbiologist Mary Ann Moran, Medeiros is studying what different communities of bacteria are doing with this DOM. They are particularly interested in how bacteria chemically transform carbon from the ocean, a key step in the marine carbon cycle that is still not well understood.

That knowledge could help us understand and better prepare for future changes in the climate, said Medeiros. "We don’t know too much about how microbes interact with DOM. We do know that DOM plays an important role in the global carbon cycle, however."


By Kristen Coyne.

At research conducted at the MagLab, a young geochemist uncovers the surprisingly violent origins of a meteorite.

This week at the lab, Ella Morton is heading to New Orleans to attend the bi-annual Ocean Sciences Meeting, her first scientific conference. She is pretty excited: Her suitcase has been packed for months with her mermaid painting, favorite story book, and My Little Pony.

At age 5, she's too young to drive the six hours from Tallahassee to the Big Easy. Luckily, her dad, MagLab geochemist Peter Morton, is going, too, and, as a father of four, is an experienced chauffeur.

Morton is able to bring Ella (child #3) to the conference, where he and his undergrad students will present data on the flow of micronutrients in the ocean, thanks to a MagLab Dependent Care Travel Grant. Launched as a diversity initiative in 2006 and funded by the Florida State University Office of Research, the program helps cover the cost of caring for children or other dependents so that MagLab staff can travel to conferences and MagLab users can come here to conduct experiments.

The financial and logistical strain of raising a family and establishing a career can weigh on young scientists. Last year, Morton was away from home for more than four months, including a 75-day expedition to the North Pole. Whenever possible, Morton brings one of his children, ages 3 to 11, on the road with him. The benefits are many: it eases the burden on his wife, allows him to spend one-on-time with his children, and exposes his kids to the life of a scientist.

"People are paying more attention to the fact that scientists aren't just hard-core data managers and idea generators, but that they have a life outside of science," said Morton. "It makes me feel better about my chosen field."

Increasingly, scientific conferences offer camps or other childcare for kids of participants, and Morton has noticed more of his colleagues bringing wee ones in tow. Youngsters get to watch mom or dad on the job and learn more about what scientists do. Watching her father present his poster at a recent meeting helped his oldest daughter give a better presentation at her middle school science fair, he said.

"I really appreciate this shift in attitude," said Morton, "where there's more infrastructure and attention given to parents and families who want to stay engaged in the science and their personal lives."


Text by Kristen Coyne / Photo by Jennifer Morton

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