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Northwest researchers get in on a quantum leap

Microsoft, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Washington are playing supporting roles in the White House’s $1 billion effort to advance research into artificial intelligence and quantum information science.

Those three organizations have already been working together through the Northwest Quantum Nexus to develop the infrastructure for quantum computers, which promise to open up new possibilities in fields ranging from chemistry to systems optimization and financial modeling.

The initiatives announced today are likely to accelerate progress toward the development of commercial-scale quantum computers, Chetan Nayak, Microsoft’s general manager for quantum hardware, said in a blog posting.

“Today marks one of the U.S. government’s largest investments in the field,” he said. “It is also a noteworthy moment for Microsoft, which is providing scientific leadership in addition to expertise in workforce development and technology transfer.”

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Verizon teams up with PNNL on 5G applications

Cybersecurity is one of the issues that will be the subject of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s research into 5G applications. (Verizon / PNNL via YouTube)

Verizon says it’s bringing its 5G ultra wideband wireless network to Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., and will collaborate with the lab on 5G applications that can benefit everything from chemistry research to electrical grid protection to the needs of first responders.

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PNNL plays role in new AI research center

Roberto Gioiosa
Roberto Gioiosa, a senior research scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, will lead a new research center focusing on challenges in artificial intelligence. (PNNL Photo)

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is joining forces with two other research powerhouses to pioneer a new $5.5 million research center created by the U.S. Department of Energy to focus on the biggest challenges in artificial intelligence.

The Center for Artificial Intelligence-Focused Architectures and Algorithms, or ARIAA, will promote collaborative projects for scientists at PNNL in Richland, Wash., at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, and at Georgia Tech. PNNL and Sandia are part of the Energy Department’s network of research labs.

ARIAA will be headed by Roberto Gioiosa, a senior research scientist at PNNL. As center director, he’ll be in charge of ARIAA’s overall vision, strategy and research direction. He’ll be assisted by two deputy directors, Sandia’s Rajamanickam and Georgia Tech Professor Tushar Krishna.

The creation of the new center is in line with the White House’s efforts to encourage partnerships in AI research. Last month, Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced the establishment of the DOE Artificial Intelligence and Technology Office to serve as a coordinating hub for all the work that’s being done in his department.

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Cryptocurrency study sheds light on fake news

Svitlana Volkova, a data scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, is part of a team of researchers who analyzed cryptocurrency discussions on Reddit. (PNNL Photo)

Computer scientists from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have mapped the ebb and flow of Reddit’s discussions about cryptocurrency — not only to see how online chatter can predict market behavior, but also to gain insights into how disinformation goes viral.

“Cryptocurrency is a very good proxy program for disinformation,” said PNNL data scientist Svitlana Volkova, one of the authors of a study presented at the Web Conference 2019 in San Francisco.

The ups and downs of cryptocurrencies have been much in the news over the past couple of years, as have the controversies associated with disinformation campaigns like the ones orchestrated by Russian agents during the 2016 presidential campaign. And cybersecurity experts are seeing evidence that the disinformation battle is already ramping up for 2020.

Tracking disinformation scientifically can be a challenge, however, because the perpetrators tend to blend in with the crowd. On a broad topic like presidential politics, it’s hard to come up with an algorithm that focuses in on what’s true vs. what’s false.

It’s easier to look at how information gets passed along on well-defined Reddit discussion forums devoted to specific cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and Monero. So Volkova and her co-authors — Emily Saldanha and Maria Glenski — conducted an analysis of tens of thousands of Reddit comments made on the forums for those three crypto coins between 2015 and 2018.

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Northwest pioneers team up on quantum frontier

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Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory plan to employ quantum computing to develop new materials for chemical applications. (Microsoft Azure via YouTube)

Experts in the weird and woolly field of quantum computing tend to concentrate on one slice of the challenge, whether it’s developing hardware, algorithms or applications — but in the region that’s home to Microsoft and Amazon, the University of Washington and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a new consortium is going after the whole stack.

We’re not talking about pancakes or sandwiches here. We’re talking about the Northwest Quantum Nexus, which is aiming to widen a network of quantum connections for researchers, developers and business leaders. The group, led by Microsoft Quantum, PNNL and UW, was formally unveiled today in advance of its inaugural summit this week at the university.

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Scientists pull out protein data from single cells

NanoPOTS protein analysis
Ying Zhu, a chemist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, places a chip containing samples for analysis into the automated NanoPOTS system. (PNNL Photo / Andrea Starr)

Scientists have developed a technique that can analyze fluid from a single human cell to identify its proteins — which could open the way for tracking the progression of cancer one cell at a time.

The method is known as NanoPOTS, or “nanodroplet processing in one pot for trace samples.” It was developed by scientists at the the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and detailed in a study published in the German journal Angewandte Chemie.

“NanoPOTS is like a molecular microscope that allows us to analyze samples that are 500 times smaller than we could see before,” PNNL analytical chemist Ryan Kelly, the study’s senior author, said in a news release. “We can identify more proteins in one cell than could previously be identified from a group of hundreds of cells.”

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UW teams up with national lab on materials science

Researcher at work
A new collaboration between the University of Washington and Pacific Northwest National Lab will support the development of new materials for a wide spectrum of applications. (PNNL via YouTube)

The University of Washington and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are joining forces on a new research venture that spans 200 miles to advance the frontiers of materials science.

The venture — known as the Northwest Institute for Materials Physics, Chemistry and Technology, or NW IMPACT — will be co-located at UW’s campus in Seattle and PNNL’s campus in Richland, Wash. Eventually, NW IMPACT will involve at least 20 joint UW-PNNL appointments for existing researchers, and at least 20 UW graduate students in UW-PNNL collaborations.

UW President Ana Mari Cauce and PNNL Director Steven Ashby formally launched the program on Jan. 31 during a ceremony at the Richland campus.

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