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Dawn Shaughnessy
Most Creative People 2016

Dawn Shaughnessy

Principal investigator, Heavy Element Group, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | Livermore, CA

For getting elemental

Dawn Shaughnessy is the principal investigator of the Heavy Element Group at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, where she has worked as a nuclear and radiochemist since 2002. In December 2015, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry added three new entries to the periodic table of elements that had been synthesized by a team of researchers led by Shaughnessy. Partnering with the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Russia, the group has discovered five new “superheavy” elements in total since 2004, bearing the atomic numbers 114 to 118. This is no simple feat: Superheavy elements aren’t found in nature, and creating them, in a cyclotron, requires precision, brute force, and lots of luck. These elements all decay within seconds, but physicists theorize that still-heavier elements could be chemically stable and might possess remarkable properties such as extreme strength or conductivity that could have applications in fields from aerospace to medicine to energy. Alongside her quest to create even heavier elements, the self-proclaimed Star Wars geek is committed to bringing more young women into science. 

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