Perseverance pays off for Livermore Lab scientist | January 3, 2014 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Column - January 3, 2014

Perseverance pays off for Livermore Lab scientist

by Jeb Bing

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's Ken Moody has been awarded the distinction of fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an honor bestowed upon association members by their peers to recognize distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. This year, AAAS awarded 388 members with this honor.

Moody, a chief scientist for radiochemistry at Lawrence Livermore, was one of the 40 fellows elected in the chemistry category. Moody is a 27-year lab employee who joined the Heavy Element Group in 1985 and has been a critical member of the team that discovered six new elements: 113 through 118. In addition, he has added more than 40 new isotopes to the chart of nuclides. Trained under Glenn Seaborg, Moody has dedicated his career to the scientific advancement of radio- and nuclear chemistry for the scientific and programmatic communities. In addition, Moody is one of the creators of the discipline of nuclear forensics, and applications of radiochemistry to national security and law enforcement problems.

Moody's dive into heavy element work has been a lifelong quest to tackle the uncharted "Island of Stability." Chemists have long predicted the existence of an "Island of Stability" at the outer bounds of the periodic table, where super-heavy elements live for milliseconds, minutes or even years amid a sea of oddly short-lived nuclei. He initially worked in the underground nuclear testing program at the laboratory until the test ban in 1992. After the test ban, he tapped into nuclear forensic analysis. At the same time, he was pursuing new superheavy elements.

Known for his dogged determination and dry wit, Moody is modest about his career, his lifelong quest to discover the "Island of Stability" and the striking discoveries along the way.

Anne Stark, the Livermore Lab's public relations officer, recalls that Moody came into his own in his superheavy element work with the Livermore group. He soon started collaborating with a similar group in Dubna, Russia.

His first trip in 1989 was a memorable one, Stark said. The Soviet Union was still considered a communist state, even though the Berlin Wall had been torn down. He and LLNL colleague Ron Lougheed were always accompanied to generally keep them out of trouble, Moody said.

In 2009, he earned the American Chemical Society Division of Nuclear Chemistry and Technology's Glenn T. Seaborg award for his work in heavy elements and nuclear forensics.

"It's a pretty impressive list of people who have been given this award," Moody said at the time. "But there aren't too many old radiochemists left so they probably thought they had to give it to me. It's a big deal. I've never looked for this kind of thing. It's not my style."

Not one to toot his own horn, yet always thinking about heavy elements, he said the honor "makes me a little uncomfortable, but maybe I'll be able to milk this for some heavy element funding."

And it's only serendipitous that the person the award is named after just happened to be Moody's graduate adviser at UC Berkeley.

His awards are numerous: The first prize of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, Dubna; R&D 100 award for "The Gamma Watermark" technology; Popular Science "Best of What's New" Award for element 114; Glenn T. Seaborg Award for Nuclear Chemistry of the American Chemical Society for discovering five elements and more than 30 isotopes and developing nuclear forensics; 2010 Gordon Battelle Prize for Scientific Discovery for the discovery of element 117 along with collaborators from LLNL and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In 2012, Moody was named a Lawrence Livermore Distinguished Member of Technical Staff for his extraordinary scientific and technical contributions to the laboratory and its missions as acknowledged by his professional peers and the larger community.

New AAAS fellows will be presented with an official certificate and a gold and blue (representing science and engineering, respectively) rosette pin on Feb. 15at the Fellows Forum during the 2014 AAAS annual meeting in Chicago.


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