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Strong Ties Get Tighter

New Northwestern-Argonne institute builds on existing collaborations

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June 22, 2011 | by Megan Fellman

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have launched a joint initiative to further develop and maximize the impact of science and engineering research collaborations in energy, biological and environmental systems and national security.

The Northwestern-Argonne Institute for Science and Engineering will expand opportunities for Northwestern undergraduate and graduate students to perform research at Argonne under the joint direction of Argonne researchers and Northwestern professors. It will also enable Argonne’s top scientists and engineers to hold faculty appointments at Northwestern.

The institute will provide the means for a wide variety of initiatives for researchers and faculty at both institutions, such as scientist exchanges, joint research projects and streamlined access to facilities.

“Northwestern faculty already partner with Argonne researchers on a wide variety of high-impact research projects,” said Jay Walsh, Northwestern’s vice president for research. “This institute will streamline our administrative processes and, by lowering the barrier for collaboration across disciplines and institutions, further the strategic initiatives of both institutions.”

“Through thoughtful collaborations with university-based researchers, Argonne National Laboratory is able to expand and extend its mission of scientific discovery in the national interest,” Argonne Director Eric Isaacs said. “This joint initiative will create additional opportunities for the world-class scientists and engineers at Argonne and Northwestern to do groundbreaking, cross-disciplinary work that will lay new foundations for American innovation and technological competitiveness in this global economy.”

Argonne is one of DOE’s major multi-program national laboratories, conducting leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. It has been managed since its founding in 1946 by the University of Chicago under contract with U.S. government agencies, currently with the DOE’s Office of Science.

“From its inception, Argonne has been a center for innovation and collaboration,” said Robert J. Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago and chair of the Argonne Board of Governors. “The Northwestern-Argonne Institute for Science and Engineering will expand opportunities for students to participate in laboratory research through joint appointments and research partnerships. The institute is further evidence of increased collaboration between Northwestern University and the University of Chicago as well as the role of the city of Chicago as an innovation hub -- where national laboratories and outstanding research institutions work together to address compelling national challenges.”

The new institute builds on current collaborations in fields ranging from solar cell development to high-performance computing. In 2009, the Argonne-Northwestern Solar Energy Research (ANSER) Center received DOE funding as an Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC). ANSER aims to revolutionize the design, synthesis and control of molecules, materials and processes to dramatically improve conversion of sunlight into electricity and fuels. Other EFRCs that include researchers from both Argonne and Northwestern are the Institute for Atom-Efficient Chemical Transformations and the Center for Electrical Energy Storage: Tailored Interfaces.

Further connections include important joint appointments for Northwestern faculty and Argonne scientists and the partnership between Northwestern’s International Institute for Nanotechnology and Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials. Northwestern researchers also take advantage of many of Argonne’s facilities such as the Advanced Photon Source.

“This institute is formalizing a partnership that has been successful for many years, but it will allow us to bring collaboration to a new level,” says Julio M. Ottino, dean of Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. “Strengthening the ties between Argonne and Northwestern will contribute to Chicago’s reputation as a leader in science and technology.”

The University’s relationship with Argonne also includes having an advisory role in the lab’s management. Walsh and Northwestern President Morton Schapiro serve on the UChicago Argonne LLC’s Board of Governors. Walsh also serves on the Argonne Science Policy Council along with Isaacs and the research vice presidents for the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois. The council guides the scientific directions of Argonne and interactions with its Illinois academic partners.

More information on the new institute, including joint appointments and existing collaborations, is available online.

Topics: University News