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US Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson assured the 85-member staff of the MIT Bates Linear Accelerator Center yesterday that despite a budgetary snafu that had the facility headed for a "cold shutdown" earlier this year, he strongly supports the work there and anticipates that it will remain unthreatened for at least the next few years.
Secretary Richardson visited the center, which is operated by MIT's Laboratory for Nuclear Science in Middleton, MA, as a national user facility. He heard 10 representatives of the Bates researchers talk about what the 25-year-old facility means to them and their careers; he toured the facility and saw projects such as the Bates Large Acceptance Spectrometer Torrid (BLAST), a detector that, when completed, will shed new light on magnetism in atomic nuclei; and he gave employees a pep talk.
Tony Carter, an employee in the facility's computer group, said Secretary Richardson reassured the staff that his personal commitment for the work that goes on at Bates remains intact despite the budget situation earlier this year. (In February, MIT learned that the President's budget for fiscal 2000 showed funding at Bates for basic research into the structure of the atomic nucleus would go from $10.8 million in fiscal 1999 to $2.5 million in fiscal 2000, which begins Oct. 1, 1999. At the time, Secretary Richardson told MIT President Charles Vest that he would file an amendment to the budget to keep Bates alive.)
During Tuesday's visit, Secretary Richardson said his budgetary amendment was officially approved by the Office of Management and Budget on Monday.
"DOE is a science and technology agency and for us to support the work you do is very important," Secretary Richardson told the researchers. "I want to show a commitment to science, and MIT has the best scientists in the world."
Prior to being sworn in as the ninth Secretary of Energy in August 1998, Richardson was US permanent representative to the United Nations. Twice nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, he has conducted sensitive diplomatic missions that resulted in freeing hostages in Bangladesh, Cuba, Iraq, North Korea and the Sudan.
Ceremonies during Secretary Richardson's visit to Bates included presentation of the Peter T. Demos Award, named for the first director of Bates, for achievement in graduate student research. Secretary Richardson presented the 1998 award to Xiaodong Jiang, who received his PhD from the University of Massachusetts and worked on the Out-of-Plane Spectrometer (OOPS) experiment at Bates.
The Bates Laboratory is a center for world-class experiments in basic nuclear physics. Research is defined and driven by 200 users from 50 institutions from the United States and abroad who carry out experiments in nuclear physics using Bates' high quality beams and facilities. Work done at Bates leads to a better understanding of the fundamental nature of matter and is an important resource in educating young physicists. Around 120 PhD students have been educated and trained at the Bates Laboratory and now occupy positions in academia, industry and research worldwide.
A version of this article appeared in the April 14, 1999 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 43, Number 26).