Everything we can see and touch is made up of chemical elements as illustrated on the Periodic Table of Elements. The heaviest, naturally occurring element is uranium. Using high-energy particle accelerators, scientists have created even heavier elements extending the Periodic Table of Elements up to element 118. As one travels along the Periodic Table to heavier and heavier elements, the lifetimes of these elements gets shorter and shorter until they decay less than one second after they are produced. In this presentation we will discuss how scientists create new elements, and how their nuclear and chemical properties compare to their naturally-occurring counterparts. We will also discuss the journey from element discovery to element naming, culminating with the official naming of element 116 as Livermorium in honor of the scientists and research that has been done at LLNL since its discovery.

Speaker Bios

Dr. Dawn Shaughnessy


Dawn Shaughnessy is the group leader for Experimental Nuclear and Radiochemistry at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where she has worked since 2002.  Her research involves studying the production and chemical properties of the heaviest elements in the Periodic Table, including the discovery of six new elements.  In 2012, element 116 was officially named Livermorium in honor of the scientists and research conducted at LLNL.  Her current work focuses on chemical applications for national security missions and using solid debris collection at the National Ignition Facility to analyze radiochemistry results from nuclear forensic experiments.  Prior to joining LLNL she was a postdoctoral researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory studying the environmental interactions of radionuclides with surrounding geologic media.  She was inducted into the Alameda County Women’s Hall of Fame in Science in 2011 and was recently awarded the inaugural LLNL Early and Mid-Career Recognition Award.  She holds a Ph.D. in Nuclear Chemistry and a B.S. in Chemistry, both from the University of California at Berkeley.

Katherine Huang

Katherine Huang has been teaching at Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon for the past 7 years.  She teaches Honors Anatomy and Physiology and Accelerated Biotechnology and Research.  She is passionate about integrating molecular biology and bioinformatics research into her classroom with the Waksman Student Scholars Program, which works closely with Rutgers University and Lawrence Livermore National Lab. The project involves sequencing novel Duckweed DNA in hopes of discovering proteins for uses such as bioremediation. Her goal is to motivate and connect students to enter fields in health care and science research that address global environmental issues. Ms. Huang received her BS in Biology at UCLA and MAT at UC Irvine.  Her interests are travel, reading, yoga, and gardening.