June 9, 2022
Arun Persaud is a staff scientist in the Accelerator Technology & Applied Physics (ATAP) Division's Fusion Science & Ion Beam Technology (FS&IBT) Program. He was born in Germany and began studying mathematics and physics in high school. In university, he focused on physics and worked at an accelerator during the summers in Darmstadt. A desire to live outside Germany and practice his English led him to Berkeley Lab in 2000, where he both worked and finished his doctoral thesis.
What research have you been working on lately?
I’ve been working on a project that can help solve an urgent problem, measuring carbon in soil. Lots of carbon has been lost in agricultural soils during industrialization. Soils are not as productive as they used to be. If we can take the carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) out of the atmosphere and put it back in the soil, it helps with plans to go to carbon net zero in 2050 and, as a side effect, increases productivity in soil. If you want to do that, you have to be able to measure carbon in soil. Now, you have to drill out a soil core and burn it to measure how much carbon is in there. It doesn’t scale well. We’re measuring gamma rays coming out of the soil and can measure the distribution of carbon in an area.
What do you like about working at the Lab?
I really like the Bay Area. People are very open and international and there is a lot of energy. At the Lab, all this research is going on in different fields. In Germany, I was with the accelerator people. Here, if you have an idea, you find someone who can help you implement it. If you need an X-ray technician, the next building over there is a world expert in X-rays who can help. In our project on measuring carbon, we work with earth sciences people.
What do you do in your spare time?
I like to juggle. I used to meet weekly with friends and we would juggle. Pretty much every university in Germany has a juggling club. There are lots of math people involved. You can juggle these crazy patterns. The complexity probably appeals to math people. In case there are other people interested, I would be happy to meet up at the Lab. If we have enough interested people, perhaps a club would be an option.