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NIU Collaboration with National Labs

Kristin Duffy
Qiang Mei

The U.S. Department of Energy’s national laboratory system has been in operation for more than sixty years. These facilities are situated throughout the United States and are equipped with specialized, often unique, equipment that is used to address large scale scientific challenges. The labs focus on accelerating the translation of basic research into practical applications through a multi-disciplinary research approach.

Partnering with universities helps the national labs to foster this multi-disciplinary approach. NIU enjoys close proximity to two national labs, Fermi and Argonne, and has a strong tradition of collaboration with both of them, in a mix of faculty-led research, experiential research opportunities for students, faculty joint appointments, and access to lab user facilities.

Faculty and Student Research

Faculty and students from NIU’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and the College of Engineering & Engineering Technology participate in a wide range of Argonne and Fermi research endeavors, such as:

  • The ATLAS detector used at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN:
    The ATLAS experiment searches for new discoveries in the head-on collisions of protons of extraordinarily high energy, and could lead to knowledge of extra dimensions of space, unification of fundamental forces, and evidence for dark matter candidates in the Universe.

  • Super-computing at Argonne’s Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF):
    The goal of the ALCF is to assist researchers in using modeling and simulation to study complex chemical processes, exotic new materials, advanced energy networks, natural ecosystems and sophisticated energy technologies.

  • Flow studies through The Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) Project
    This research uses mathematical and computational models to predict the details of fluid flow and its effects on structures in the flow and interactions with boundary surfaces. Results will allow engineers to design more robust bridges, as well as other roadside and waterway hydraulic structures.

Joint Appointments

NIU has several current Joint Appointment agreements with both Fermi and Argonne. These arrangements, whereby the University and lab work together to provide support for a faculty person, mutually strengthen the research efforts of each participating institution by combining University and lab intellectual and physical resources.

Argonne User Facilities

Argonne hosts six national user facilities. NIU researchers may apply to use the facilities for experiments that may not be possible without the lab’s specialized equipment. There are currently six user facilities at Argonne and each offers separate Calls for Proposals:

Argonne user facilities offer three rolling deadlines every year for proposal submission and they are in March, July, and November. Users must register online through the User Facility Registration System before submitting a proposal. All individuals coming to Argonne must register, receive a badge number, and receive access permission for arrival. The badge number is also needed for logging on the Online Proposal System for the first time.

Each facility has separate Calls for Proposals. See the websites for details of the requirements for proposals and descriptions of each facility’s proposal review process. FAQs and additional proposal tips are included on some sites. The APS website, for example, offers proposal writing suggestions in a short article, How to Wow! "Secrets" for a Successful Proposal.