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Dedication of Physical Sciences Complex and Laboratory for Advanced Quantum Science
University of Maryland
College Park, MD
April 23, 2014
Dr. Patrick Gallagher, Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director
It’s a real thrill to be standing here in the long-awaited Physical Sciences Complex.
Congratulations to Chancellor Kirwan, President Loh, Dean Banavar, and the whole UMD team on completion of this first and most important milestone.
The partnership between NIST and the University of Maryland is one of our oldest, longest running, and most productive associations. But even so, today is something of a high-water mark.
Just to give you a sense of that, we ran some numbers. Over the last 40 years, NIST and UMD researchers have jointly authored more than 3,500 articles, which have been cited in excess of 88,000 times. A sizable percentage of that body of work, probably about half, is in physics and related fields.
In recent years, of course, the vital heart of that interaction has been the Joint Quantum Institute, which will have a new home in the complex we’re dedicating today. NIST is extremely proud of our role in JQI, which is living up to our highest expectations.Again, just to give you a sense of the quality of the work, JQI papers were featured on the covers of major scientific journals four times just since January 2013.
And since only a week ago we had the celebration of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers—the most prestigious U.S. government prize for young scientists—it’s worth noting that the highly talented JQI staff has had four PECASE winners. There have been many other honors and fellowships as well.
Of course, there’s a part of this complex that we’ve particularly looked forward to: the state-of-the-art laboratories that NIST co-funded under our Construction Grant Program. JQI research in these sub-basement labs will be at the forefront of quantum science.
Experimental quantum physics is notoriously fussy. Equipment and experiments need to be protected from vibration, changes in temperature, electromagnetic interference—pretty much everything. Hours and days can be lost readjusting equipment.The new laboratories are designed to achieve outstanding environmental control for these demanding experiments. When it’s completely outfitted and operational, its performance and capabilities will rival those of NIST’s own Advanced Measurement Laboratory.I will leave it to the researchers to tell you what that means for their work. But I’d like to point out that while the JQI will be a big beneficiary of the sub-basement laboratories, the University of Maryland got no special favors in the competition for NIST funding. That was a peer-reviewed, merit competition against some other excellent proposals. We were able to fund only about 7 percent of the proposals we received. That alone says something about the importance of this facility. As I said, we’ve reached a big milestone today. Science is, above all, a social occupation, one that thrives on interaction. Even if it didn’t include the advanced quantum science lab, the completion of phase one of the Physical Science Complex would be a big event. Today, we dedicate a magnificent collaborative space that fulfills a big part of the original vision for the JQI, bringing multidisciplinary researchers together for the synergies that just naturally happen.We celebrate and look forward to the completion of the final phase, and past that, to a brilliant future for research and teaching.I’d like to say NIST is pleased to be in on the ground floor of this enterprise, but actually we did better. We got in on the basement. Thanks.