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By Biocat

Dr. Caterina Biscari is the newly appointed director of the ALBA synchrotron, the first synchrotron light laboratory in southeast Europe, located in Cerdanyola del Vallès (Barcelona). The synchrotron’s Governing Council approved her nomination this month after holding an international merit-based call for candidates.

Biscari, born in Italy in 1957, holds an undergraduate degree in Physics from the Complutense University of Madrid and has worked in a number of laboratories throughout her scientific career, particularly in Italy and at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). Before joining the ALBA synchrotron, she was the Director of Technology and Deputy Director of Science for the Frascati National Laboratory’s Accelerator Division at the Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics. She is also a member of the European Physical Society Executive Committee, where she has presided over the accelerator group, and has also participated in advisory boards for projects in a number of countries, including the Advisory Committee for the CERN accelerators and for the start-up of the National Center for Oncological Hadron Therapy in Pavia.

First synchrotron experiment

In recent years, Catalonia has created a series of top-notch science and technology facilities available to the scientific community as a whole, making this area a benchmark hub for southern Europe, as indicated in the 2011 Biocat Report (page 139). One of these facilities is the ALBA synchrotron. There are only 49 synchrotrons in the world and ALBA is the first facility of its kind to be built in Spain. This project has received €201 millions in investment since 2003, co-financed by the Government of Catalonia and the Spanish Government. These two administrations have joined forces to create the CELLS consortium (Consortium for the Construction, Equipment and Exploitation of the Synchrotron Light Facility).

The ALBA synchrotron can have a total of 33 beamlines and welcome more than one thousand researchers per year. Initially, a committee of independent experts has selected the first lines of research with applications in: the study of biological structures and proteins; designing new medical treatments, image diagnostics techniques and new surgical implants; studying living organisms, like viruses and bacteria; creating new drugs; creating new semiconductor materials, plastics, chemicals and fabric; and designing micro-devices.

In June, it was announced that a group of researchers from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) Department of Chemistry and the Institute of Materials Science of Barcelona (ICMAB-CSIC) will be the first to use the synchrotron. These scientists will research the magnetic properties of nanoparticles included in superconductor materials in order to improve their current properties. This work is geared towards making the electricity distribution grid more effective. More information is available on the UAB website.

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