Argonne National Laboratory focus of new alliance between University of Chicago, Northwestern, University of Illinois
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March 29, 2005 Press Contact: Steve Koppes
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Argonne National Laboratory focus of new alliance between University of Chicago, Northwestern, University of Illinois

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Megan Fellman

James Kloeppel


The University of Chicago has established a new Science Policy Council in collaboration with Northwestern University and the University of Illinois that will oversee the scientific mission of Argonne National Laboratory. The Council is expected to enhance Argonne’s scientific capabilities, strengthen the state's technological base and workforce preparation, and improve Illinois’ ability to receive federal research funding.

By strengthening ties between Argonne and its academic partners in Illinois, the Council will open new vistas for research at the Laboratory and within the region, said Thomas Rosenbaum, the University of Chicago’s vice president for research and for Argonne. A closer relationship between Argonne and Illinois universities could also trigger new scientific, technological and economic benefits while providing a larger role for Illinois students in research at the laboratory.

The University of Chicago will continue as the sole manager of the Laboratory for the Department of Energy, but the presidents and a senior administrator from both Northwestern and Illinois will join Argonne’s Board of Governors. The presidents of Northwestern, Illinois and the University of Chicago will serve as members of the executive and nominating committees of the Argonne Board, helping recruit prominent new members to the board from industry, academia and the national laboratory system.

At Northwestern University, vice president for research C. Bradley Moore said the Argonne collaboration brings together regional institutions to tackle problems too difficult for any one institution to handle alone. “The complementary strengths of the academic institutions will provide more diverse advice and richer opportunities for collaboration for Argonne National Laboratory,” Moore said. “The resulting powerhouse of R&D promises to make Chicagoland far more competitive in the global knowledge economy.”

According to vice-chancellor for research Charles Zukoski, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will use its council participation to build on its existing ties to Argonne in such areas as transportation research, biology and high-energy physics, and its use of the Advanced Photon Source, which is the Western Hemisphere’s most powerful source of X-rays. “We bring a strong engineering component to conversations about the future directions of Argonne. That plus our science base builds on the scientific expertise of our partner universities as we work with Argonne and the Department of Energy to solve the nation's problems,” Zukoski said.

The University of Illinois at Chicago has enjoyed a long history of fruitful collaboration with Argonne National Laboratory and its scientists, said Eric Gislason, UIC’s vice-chancellor for research.

“In addition to working together on common projects and sharing facilities, a number of UIC faculty have held or hold joint appointments with Argonne, and UIC students have participated in Argonne student support and thesis research programs,” Gislason said. “We look forward to expanding these connections in the future.”

Rosenbaum explained that establishing the council is a response to the evolving climate for scientific funding, in which greater emphasis is being placed on research that is supported by researchers at more than one institution.

“There is a growing emphasis in federal science funding on regional collaborations,” Rosenbaum said. “Our successful recent bid for the Regional Biocontainment Lab to be built soon at Argonne is a good example of the value of bringing a number of institutions together. The funding agencies, including the National Science Foundation, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Institutes of Health, are all putting more value on collaborative, multi-disciplinary science. We believe this council will help make Argonne more attractive in the competition for funding for leading edge projects.”

Lauding the new council was Argonne’s Director Designate Robert Rosner.

“Illinois is fortunate to be home to three of the great national research universities, and by creating the Science Policy Council, the University has provided a formal mechanism for bringing this strength to bear on guiding the science and technology future of Argonne National Laboratory,” said Rosner, who will become Argonne’s director on Monday, April 18.

“No single university in the world can match the combined strengths in science and engineering that the combination of the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois and Northwestern University provides. This collaboration will give us the opportunity to make Argonne pre-eminent among all of the national laboratories. That will have an enormous positive feedback on the research programs of the participating universities.”

Rosner said that Argonne has already provided the venue for carrying out forefront science and technology research that cannot easily be carried out in a university setting. “Strengthening Argonne will result in similar benefits accruing to the many other universities that participate actively in research programs at Argonne, from universities within Illinois and within the Midwest to research institutions throughout the United States,” he said.

The new Science Policy Council’s responsibilities will focus on guiding the interactions and scientific directions of Argonne and its Illinois academic partners. It will address such issues as joint appointments, student and faculty access, and the development of new scientific directions for Argonne. Membership of the new Science Policy Council will consist of the vice presidents for research from the University of Chicago and Northwestern, the vice chancellors for research from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the Director of Argonne National Laboratory. The Science Policy Council has been approved by the Argonne Board of Governors and the University of Chicago Board of Trustees.

Argonne is a direct descendant of the University of Chicago’s Metallurgical Laboratory, which created the first controlled, nuclear chain reaction in 1942. The University has operated Argonne since the latter was established as the nation's first national laboratory in 1946. Argonne is one of 10 national laboratories managed by the DOE’s Office of Science. These laboratories perform research and development that is not well-suited to university or private-sector research facilities because of its scope, infrastructure, or multidisciplinary nature, but for which there is a strong public and national purpose.
Last modified at 11:15 AM CST on Friday, April 01, 2005.

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