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Scott Lea, Ph.D.

Senior Research Scientist, WR Wiley Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, Interface Spectroscopy/Diffraction

P.O. Box 999, K8-93
Richland, WA 99352
Work: (509) 371-6233 Fax: (509) 371-7866 Updated: August 30, 2011

Current Activities and Projects

Dr. Lea has over 20 years of experience with research related to surface science. His primary focus areas are related to the application of electron spectroscopy and scanning probes to study chemical and geochemical processes, biomolecular adsorption, and intermolecular forces at surfaces. Dr. Lea received his Ph.D. in bioengineering from the University of Utah under the direction of Drs. Vlado Hlady and Joe Andrade. His graduate work involved investigating adsorption of proteins to surfaces with emphasis on biocompatibility. He also has considerable experience developing novel biomaterial surfaces for minimization of protein adsorption, thrombosis, and protein denaturation.

Research Interests

Since joining Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), his research has focused primarily on: studying the effect of solution composition on calcite dissolution and incorporation of impurities into the calcite to better understand the fate and transport of contaminants in soil, examining the effect of solution composition and environmental conditions on transformations of minerals at the molecular scale under supercritical carbon dioxides to understand sequestration processes, investigating interparticle forces between colloids in solution to evaluate their behavior under high salt conditions, and understanding the relationship between organic matrix and inorganic crystal in biomineralization. He has been investigating sample charging and damage due to exposure to x-rays and electron beams during analysis and sputtering effects on nanomaterials. He has developed the world’s first and only high pressure AFM head capable of imaging mineral surfaces in supercritical carbon dioxide and has been a co-developer of an near real-time application program to improve the turnaround time between data collection and analysis in x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. More recently, he has been involved in a project enabling in-situ nanometer scale IR spectroscopic analysis of surfaces to better understand catalytic reactions.

At EMSL, Dr. Lea’s activities include managing the recently formed Microscopy capability in EMSL that includes the scanning probe, electron and He ion microscopes. He works with numerous collaborators on Science Theme proposals, ranging from solid oxide fuel cells, catalysis, and chemical reactions that occur at mineral or aerosol interfaces. Dr. Lea also oversees activities and maintains instrumentation in the scanning probe microscopy and Auger electron spectroscopy laboratories.

Dr. Lea has also supported other research programs related to the growth of novel nanoscale oxide structures and oxide films for the purposes of investigating microbe- mineral interactions, photocatalysis, and electronic applications in addition to supporting research programs on corrosion and grain boundary segregation in metals.

Past Experience

  • 2009-present; Capability Lead for Microscopy

  • 2000-present: Senior Research Scientist, Environmental Molecular Science Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

  • 1996-2000: Research Scientist, Environmental Molecular Science Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

  • 1993-1996: Post-doctoral Fellow, Materials and Interfaces, Molecular Sciences Research Center, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory


  • 1993, Ph.D. in Bioengineering, University of Utah

  • 1983, M.Engr. in Biomedical Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

  • 1981, B.S. in Biochemistry, Lehigh University

Awards, Honors, & Appointments

  • PNNL Individual and Outstanding Team Performance Awards, 2003-2004

  • University of Utah Graduate Research Fellowship Award

  • Curtis C. Johnson Award for outstanding 2nd year bioengineering student, 1987

  • Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society

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