A world-renowned University of Wisconsin research center may be forced to limit available services and make staff layoffs as a direct result of a tight national budget for research institutions.
After nearly 30 years of recruiting high-caliber researchers from around the world to conduct experimentation at the Stoughton center, the Synchrotron Radiation Center may face serious cutbacks in available funding as a result of President Barack Obama’s budget.
The facility’s director, Joseph Bisognano, said the new budget would cost the center nearly $5 million in annual funding from the National Science Foundation.
Innovations in the development of computer chips, new alternative fuel sources and understandings of Alzheimer’s disease have been discovered at the Synchrotron Center.
Bisognano said NSF funding is responsible for covering nearly 90 percent of the center’s costs, and without the funds, the center will likely be forced to lay off some of its 35 employees for the coming year.
Paul DeLuca, UW provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said the reduction in funding was to be anticipated in the current economic climate.
“These cuts in funding comes as no surprise,” he said. “We were under the impression the foundation had intended to terminate funding for the center this coming year.”
Bisognano said the facility remains valuable because it is one of only eight in the country and receives constant improvements in order to retain its title as a powerful science research center.
He added one of the most significant features of the facility is an electron storage ring, nicknamed Aladdin, which is nearly the size of a baseball diamond.
“The machine can be loosely compared to an X-ray machine and is the best infrared light source of its kind,” he said.
Bisognano said Aladdin helps researchers understand what goes on inside of materials and has been implemented to learn about cancer cells and the energy production mechanisms of algae.
The facility currently has $4.5 million in funding from the Department of Energy in the form of a grant, which is slated to finance the development of an electron gun, he said.
DeLuca said this Free Electron Laser project is another reason for hope for the center. He said while some of the center’s current capabilities may be deemphasized, there is a new and exciting future for the center’s potential scientific projects.
Bisognano said if the NSF funding gets cut, it would be difficult for the center to find equivalent funding from other sources because the cut is for such a large sum that additional funding will have to come from one of very few other government agencies.
However, Bisognano said he remains hopeful the facility will find a way to keep its doors open but doubts the center would be able to continue to offer their full services.
DeLuca added he is confident cuts in funding will not affect the quality of research on the UW campus as a whole.
He said funding from NSF and the Department of Energy has actually increased on average and is confident in the university’s ability to remain a competitive candidate for funding.