Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Public Affairs
October 4, 2004
DeKalb, Ill. — Northern Illinois University President John Peters has been selected to serve on a blue-ribbon task force created by Gov. Rod Blagojevich to support Argonne National Laboratory in its bid for a $1 billion accelerator project.
Illinois and Michigan are competing to be selected as the site for construction of the Rare Isotope Accelerator. Illinois officials say the project would be a boon to the state economy, creating thousands of construction jobs and eventually hundreds of permanent high-tech research positions. Universities statewide also stand to benefit from their proximity to the one-of-its-kind research tool.
The U.S. Department of Energy has listed the project as a high priority and could choose a construction site by year’s end.
“We’ll do everything we can to support Argonne, which has throughout its history been at the very cutting-edge of science,” NIU President Peters said. “NIU researchers are at the forefront of accelerator physics, and we intend to apply our considerable resources and talents to the benefit of this proposal.”
The proposed accelerator would provide intense beams of rare isotopes (short-lived nuclei not normally found on earth) for a wide variety of studies in nuclear structure, nuclear astrophysics and fundamental interactions. The basic research in turn could lead to commercial applications in such areas as medicine, energy production and national security.
“It is critical that the public and private sectors in Illinois work together to support Argonne as the location for this important new facility,” Gov. Blagojevich said. The task force he created is spearheaded by Argonne Director Hermann Grunder, University of Chicago President Don Randel and Jack Lavin, director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
Other task force members include U.S. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Sen. Richard Durbin, Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert, Illinois Coalition Chairman Samuel Skinner, University of Illinois President James Stukel and Northwestern University President Henry Bienen.
NIU has a growing reputation in the field of accelerator physics, with both faculty and students conducting research at Argonne and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.
“All Illinois universities would stand to gain from the rare isotope accelerator being built at Argonne, and NIU would certainly benefit greatly,” said Physics Professor Gerald Blazey, co-director of the Northern Illinois Center for Accelerator and Detector Development.
“Research that would be conducted at the rare isotope facility would fit in very nicely with our physics programs at NIU and could benefit researchers in other fields as well, such as chemistry and engineering,” Blazey added.
Physics Professor Courtlandt Bohn worked to establish a joint position at NIU and Argonne supporting the Rare Isotope Accelerator. Bela Erdelyi was hired in August to fill that post and is performing computational work for the accelerator’s design.
“NIU has been involved all along,” Bohn said. “If Argonne wins the project, our students and faculty will be involved in planning, research and development. The project also would help faculty attract research grants, and it could even help us bring in funding for more accelerator infrastructure at NIU.”