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Science & Technology Commission
Meeting Minutes
April 11, 2000

Attendees: Anita Jones (chair), John Bean, Gene Block, Don Brown, Ariel Gomez, Ian Harrison, Erik Hewlett, George Hornberger, Robert Jones, John O’Connell, Karen Parshall, Tom Skalak, Kevin Sullivan. Ex officio: Pace Moore, Tim Sigmon, Dick Sundberg, Haydn Wadley. Staff: Amy Cronin, Charles Feigenoff, Brian Moriarty, Fariss Samarrai.

Meeting Summary

The Commission continued a discussion from the last meeting on strategies for coming to closure on a series of recommendations. The Commission heard and discussed a proposal on building a free-electron laser presented by Ian Harrison and Blaine Norum.

 Strategies for Coming to Closure

  1. Anita Jones suggested that the multiple areas that the Commission identifies should be complementary and only overlapping in a minor way. Such a strategy focuses on key areas while spanning large segments of faculty. Haydn Wadley indicated that in making its recommendations the Commission should also be cognizant of enabling graduate students and post-docs.
  2. The Commission discussed the need to identify the proper breadth for each area being considered. If these areas are too narrow, they might fail to enable those members of the University community who could respond to some of the broader trends in society. Conversely, if these areas are too broad the Commissions proposals will not sufficiently enable the faculty whom they were meant to empower.
  3. The Commission identified candidate focus areas and resolved to examine them more closely in an extended meeting. Small groups were formed and charged with preparing working papers for each of the focus areas. These reports, to be structured around the Commission’s list of criteria, will be presented and discussed at the next Commission meeting. This will be an extended meeting in order to allot discussion time to each focus area report.

Proposal for Building a Free-electron Laser

  1. Ian Harrison and Blaine Norum presented a plan to support a research focus area by building a free electron laser (FEL) at the University. The FEL uses multiple beams of free electrons (i.e., electrons not bound in atoms) to produce exceptionally clear images of materials of miniscule size (e.g., cellular components, etc.). This large and relatively unique instrument is widely viewed as being the key enabling tool for nanotechnology in the twenty-first century.
  2. Harrison and Norum asserted that this device would greatly advance the work of the University’s research community. Building a FEL would also identify UVa as leader in nanotechnology and would poise the University to compete for the very substantial federal funding that will soon be available in this area. The Department of Energy (DOE) plans to award $1,000,000,000 for the establishment of a national laboratory that centers on the building of an x-ray FEL. This initial award will be supplemented by $100,000,000/year for operating costs and research.
  3. Both Harrison and Norum believe that the University has a strong chance of making a winning bid for the DOE’s x-ray free electron laser, if certain strategic actions are taken. These actions include the hiring of a top researcher to lead the project and proposal process, the construction of a FEL and active participation in FEL projects being undertaken by other institutions.
  4. Harrison pointed out that the initial FEL to be built at the University would have important applications to a variety of disciplines including, protein/DNA sequencing, medicine, materials science, solid state physics, electrical engineering, magnetic computing, and the semiconductor industry among others. In other words, this device has multi-disciplinary implications and would likely foster inter-disciplinary work at the University. Even if this FEL did not enable the University to win the bid for the DOE’s x-ray FEL, it would be a great boon to the research and education objectives of the University.

Discussion Topics

  • Strategies for coming to closure
  • Building a Free Electron Laser

Next Meeting

Date and time to be announced.

This meeting will be an extended meeting starting in late afternoon and going into the evening. It was determined that a larger block of time is needed to compare and contrast the various focus areas and to make decisions on them. Once each area has been discussed the Commission will address the question of whether any of the reorganization proposals discussed at prior meetings would support the research and education objectives related to the focus areas more strongly than would the current organization (i.e., are there compelling reasons for undertaking organizational change?).


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