Category Archives: projects


It’s been a few months since the ChatGPT craze started, and we’re finally seeing some interesting courses and guidelines, particularly for coding, where I found the whole thing quite impressive.

Ad hoc use of LLaMa

Here’s a few that can be of interest, potentially growing over time (this is mostly a notes to self.)

Plus – things are getting really crazy: Large language models encode clinical knowledge (Nature, Google Research.)


Updates on AI for big science

There’s a lot of things happening on the front of AI for Big Science (AI for large scale facilities, such as synchrotrons.)

The recently published DOE report in AI for Science, Energy, and Security Report provides interesting insights, and a much-needed update to the AI for Science Report of 2020.

Computing Facilities are upgrading to provide scientists the tools to engage with the latest advances in machine learning. I recently visited NERSC’s Perlmutter supercomputer, and it is LOADED with GPU for AI training.

A rack of Tesla A100 from the Perlmutter supercomputer at NERSC/Berkeley Lab

Meanwhile, companies with large computing capabilities are making interesting forays in using AI for science, for instance Meta, which is developing OpenCatalyst in collaboration with Carnegie-Mellon University, where the goal is to create AI models to speed up the study of catalysts, which are generally very computer-intensive (see the Berkeley Lab Materials Project.) Now the cool part is to verify these results using x-ray diffraction at a synchrotron facilities. Something a little similar happened with AlphaFold where newly derived structure may need to be tested with x-rays at the Advanced Light Source: Deep-Learning AI Program Accurately Predicts Key Rotavirus Protein Fold (ALS News)

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Out Of Many

Last week I was lucky to meet with Vanessa Chan, the Chief Commercialization Officer for the Department of Energy and Director of the Office of Technology Transitions. She wanted to hear what kind of hurdles when it comes to start a company (hint: a lot.) I told her that a major, overlooked issue is that you generally to be a permanent resident to start at company in the US, whereas two-thirds of postdocs are foreign nationals and on visas. There are ways to get around the requirement (such as Unshackled), but it’s a little sad not more is done to provide support to those willing and able (plus – it is a well-known trope that many US companies are founded by foreign nationals, what I tend to believe is among what sets California apart from other states and other countries, where entrepreneurship doesn’t flourish as much as expected despite many efforts)

Conversation with Vanessa Chan

Two ways to say things

I am a native French speaker, and I have always been confused by the ubiquity of English, language which is actually quite difficult to speak (why is tough, though, thought and enough so different?) And I was also puzzled the difference between liberty and freedom – no one could ever explain me the difference, even though “Freedom” is probable the most overused concept in American society (French has “Liberté” in its national motto, but is has nothing to do with “free” as in “free sample.”)

Finally, I found an interesting explanation by Jorge Luis Borges, who sees this as a feature, not a bug:

I have done most of my reading in English. I find English a far finer language than Spanish.

Firstly, English is both a Germanic and a Latin language. Those two registers—for any idea you take, you have two words. Those words will not mean exactly the same. For example if I say “regal” that is not exactly the same thing as saying “kingly.” Or if I say “fraternal” that is not the same as saying “brotherly.” Or “dark” and “obscure.” Those words are different. It would make all the difference—speaking for example—the Holy Spirit, it would make all the difference in the world in a poem if I wrote about the Holy Spirit or I wrote the Holy Ghost, since “ghost” is a fine, dark Saxon word, but “spirit” is a light Latin word. Then there is another reason.

The reason is that I think that, of all languages, English is the most physical of all languages. You can, for example, say “He loomed over.” You can’t very well say that in Spanish.

And then you have, in English, you can do almost anything with verbs and prepositions. For example, to “laugh off,” to “dream away.” Those things can’t be said in Spanish. To “live down” something, to “live up to” something—you can’t say those things in Spanish. They can’t be said. Or really in any Roman language.

(thanks Jordan Poss for the transcription!)

I really enjoy this notion of physicality – onomatopoeia are a vibrant part of the language: whisper, gulp, slam, rumble, slushy, etc.

Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen.
Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.
– Ludwig Wittgenstein

Let’s all clap for Borges!

SFMOMA x Berkeley Lab: Hybrid forms

Yesterday I invited Tanya Zimbardo from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to give a talk at Berkeley Lab (details about the even can be found here: Hybrid Forms: Connecting Art and Science)

Tanya Zimbardo (SFMONA) at Berkeley Lab

It was quite interesting to hear her perspective on a topic which is close to my heart, and happy to hear many references to Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, who currently has the Techs-Mechs exhibition running at the Gray Area, but also quite surprising not hear anything about Jim Campbell (whose art glows atop the Salesforce building “Eye of Sauron”) or the work of Illuminate.

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Using machine learning to achieve diffraction-limited performance with x-rays deformable mirrors

In a our last paper, we present the use of machine learning to get the most of x-ray adaptive optics – and it works like magic! This was a great work accomplished by Gautam Gunjala, a grad student from UC Berkeley under a SCGSR grant, together with our wonderful colleagues from the Advanced Photon Source.

X-ray adaptive mirrors are very nice, because they allow to correct the shape of x-ray beams, when the beam gets distorted by mirror deformation or misalignment. That’s why we want to use them in the latest generation of synchrotron light source such as ALS-U or APS-U.

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Angela Saini at Berkeley Lab

We were pleased, as Berkeley Lab Global Employee Resource Group co-chairs, to invite and co-organize with Angela Saini at Berkeley Lab on November 9th, 2022.

Author Angela Saini in conversation with Aditi Chakravarti from the Diversity and Inclusion office at Berkeley Lab (IDEA)

More details about the event:

How to get the most out of a conference in person

Making the most out of a conference is a good idea! My friend Maria Zurek (former Berkeley Lab postdoc, now at Argonne) made a very interesting talk, and here are her slide:

Maria Zurek (left) and I (right) with Jeff Welser (IBM VP of research, center) and the rest of the Berkeley Lab Postdoc Association in October 2019

She gave a few great pieces of advice, here are my favorites:
– come to the conference with your slides READY. If they’re not ready, you will miss most of the social hours, where the networking happens (that’s a hard one – but very true: a conference is mostly about meeting people, not presenting your research.)

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Dream beam

I am very happy to announce that was granted en Early Career Research Award by the US Department of Energy, to work on the DREAM beam: Diffraction-limited Radiation Enhancement with Adaptive Mirrors for x-ray coherent beamlines.

Here are some news releases:

They may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one

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Scientists on screen

There isn’t much representation of scientists in popular culture, with a only few movies standing out, such as a “A Beautiful Mind” (on John Nash) or “Good Will Hunting.” There’s been a few more in the biopic genre lately, such as the “Imitation Game” on Alan Turing or “The Theory of Everything” on Stephen Hawking, and soon a movie on Robert Oppenheimer by Chris Nolan.

But the representation of women in science and technology is even less frequent. Things seem to be changing, and during the pandemic there’s been a few biopics on women scientists, to which I want to bring attention to:

(credit: @truffleduster)

All of them have been deprived of a theatrical release, and I find it a bit sad they haven’t been delayed, but perhaps there’s been increased distribution through streaming platforms.
I should also mention slightly older movies such as “Hidden Figures“, “Contact“, “Arrival” and “Interstellar” – surprisingly all about space exploration.
Why can’t we see beakers, petri dishes and lasers?