Skip navigation
Return to Issue

President's Perspective

  • Author:
    Lou Anna K. Simon
  • Published:
    Summer 2008

            The 2008 summer Olympic games are nearly here. In August, many around the globe will have the opportunity to watch some of the world’s most gifted athletes compete. Over the years, a remarkable number of Spartan athletes have participated in the summer and winter games, and their extraordinary accomplishments are highlighted in this issue of the MSU Alumni Magazine.

            Michigan State University will be featured prominently at the Beijing games as well:  the field in Beijing National Stadium is Spartan turfgrass. Michigan State’s historic role in helping to grow and prepare the field for competition is also highlighted in this issue.

            While the athletes compete on the modular turfgrass field developed by MSU scientists, MSU’s National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory, the nation’s premier rare isotope beam facility, will be competing here at home for another kind of ‘gold medal’—the half-billion dollar Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) project, funded by the U.S. Dept. of Energy. Bringing the FRIB to Michigan would be a victory of Olympic proportions for the state, the nation, and MSU.

            This is an important project for U.S. competitiveness and for the state of Michigan. Studying the nucleus of the atom is one of the purest pursuits of knowledge. The studies undertaken at laboratories such as the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory at Michigan State are vital to America’s leadership position in international scientific research and have led to practical innovations for everyday life, including important medical diagnosis and treatment techniques and materials science for advanced manufacturing. Building the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams is essential for maintaining U.S. leadership in basic nuclear research, and MSU is the ideal location for this facility.

            In addition to long-term scientific, security, and economic benefits to the nation, the facility will have significant short- and long-term economic benefits for Michigan, including the creation of 800 construction jobs and an estimated $1 billion in economic impact over the next 10 years.  The NSCL at Michigan State is the most qualified contender for this project scientifically and is the only place where training the next generation of nuclear scientists is a priority. In fact, MSU’s nuclear physics graduate program is ranked second behind only the Massachusetts Institute of Technology by U.S. News & World Report.

            The economic future of Michigan and the United States will be determined by our ability to compete in the rapidly emerging knowledge-based, technology-driven global marketplace. Math and science provide the competitive edge and are essential for the innovation that will move the economy forward. The current and next generations of Americans must be better educated in math and science in order to succeed and lead.

            The NSCL at MSU has been a leader for more than four decades in educating nuclear scientists and attracting some of the world’s best minds to Michigan. The lab has a long tradition and commitment to exposing students – from grade school through post-doctorates – to this important science. Ten percent of the nation’s nuclear science PhDs are educated at MSU, a gold medal standard by any measurement.

            The Department of Energy plans to select a location for the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams later this year. The NSCL staff, led by Director Konrad Gelbke, is been preparing a detailed and high quality MSU application, but it will also be important for leaders in Washington to hear from Michigan’s citizens, from science teachers, and from scientists in support of MSU’s bid for this project. I have already contacted a number of top state leaders and enlisted their support by asking them to join an advisory committee to help make the strongest case possible with federal officials.

            As alumni and advocates for Michigan State, I encourage you to lend your voice to this important project. There are a number of ways you can get involved and help MSU secure this critically important project for the state. Please visit to learn more about the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory, rare isotope research, and how you can help.

            The work of MSU researchers will be center stage this summer as soccer teams from around the world compete on the Olympic field developed right here in East Lansing. It is but one shining example of this institution’s leadership at the cutting edge of science and research; the NSCL is another. In order to keep America at the forefront of nuclear science and rare isotope research, the construction of the FRIB is essential, and MSU is the ideal location.


            Lou Anna K. Simon, Ph.D.

            President, Michigan State University