Science & Technology Commission
April 11, 2000
Attendees: Anita Jones (chair), John Bean, Gene Block, Don Brown, Ariel Gomez, Ian
Harrison, Erik Hewlett, George Hornberger, Robert Jones, John OConnell, 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.
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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
Commissions 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
Proposal for Building a Free-electron Laser
- 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.
- Harrison and Norum asserted that this device would greatly advance the work of the
Universitys 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.
- Both Harrison and Norum believe that the University has a strong chance of making a
winning bid for the DOEs 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.
- 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
DOEs x-ray FEL, it would be a great boon to the research and education objectives of
- Strategies for coming to closure
- Building a Free Electron Laser
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?).