Facility fuels new science
Feb. 28, 2011
Michigan State University is on its way to becoming the capital of rare isotope science with the construction of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams.
FRIB will be a facility that scientists will use to create and analyze rare isotopes and the impact they can have on the world. Isotopes are atomic nuclei of the same elements with a different number of neutrons.
A 10-year project, FRIB is currently in the preliminary design phase and ground will be broken on the project in two years.
The facility itself will contain a particle accelerator that will generate beams of rare isotopes for researchers to study. In nature, these isotopes may not exist on Earth, and if they do, may exist for a fraction of a second. Studying only rare isotopes can allow scientists to better understand the physics of ultra-small objects, model star explosions, test nature’s fundamental interaction and provide applications of isotopes for society.
Society benefits from nuclear research in many areas, including medicine. For example, these type of studies led to developments in cancer research and the creation of PET scans, a medical procedure that tests body functions.
“FRIB gives scientists the opportunities to make discoveries and have access to rare isotopes,” Alex Parsons, communications manager for FRIB, said. “Scientists can learn things that they can only learn here and will be given a tool more powerful than any they have had before.”
Receiving the money to fund a project as large as FRIB began with MSU submitting an application in response to a Department of Energy Office of Science funding opportunity announcement. MSU was selected to design and establish FRIB after a merit-review process. The MSU Physical Plant* played a large role in convincing the DOE that MSU should receive the funds for the project. During the application process, MSU showcased the knowledge of the number of skilled trades people at the Physical Plant, ranging from power generation to construction expertise, University Engineer Bob Nestle said.
“They were very impressed, and that played a huge role in securing the award,” Nestle said. “As a result, we now have a role in helping make the project successful.”
The Physical Plant was instrumental in showcasing MSU’s ability as an entire university. Rather than looking at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory as a separate entity, the application featured MSU’s skills as a vast and complete university.
“It’s the infrastructure and expertise of Michigan State University that gives us the ability to build a half-billion-dollar facility and Physical Plant was a large part of that,” Parsons said. “Building and maintaining and providing power to the entire campus looks different than if we just focus on this particular building (NSCL). The Physical Plant and the things your team does were key to making us a credible choice for the Department of Energy Office of Science.”
Because of the role the Physical Plant played in securing the award, numerous people (see sidebar) have been a part of the project. The ability to use MSU staff to work on FRIB is what sets MSU apart from other national laboratories, Brad Bull, FRIB conventional facilities division director, said.
“It is an MSU project,” Bull said. “We’re taking advantage of the infrastructure we have. One of the most impressive things is a national laboratory may build a lab every 20 years, but we build 100-plus projects every year. We are in the loop and up to speed on construction.”
FRIB has also received help from all departments in the Physical Plant.
“Physical Plant employees are helping now in a support role,” Bull said. “Not only architects, engineers, construction people; the maintenance crews are helping set up our trailer, bring the power to it and all the services. BPO has been involved and very helpful with the different contracts needed for the project.”
FRIB is scheduled to be completed in 2020. Its completion not only keeps MSU on the map as a hot spot for nuclear science research, but it will also bring economic benefits to the state of Michigan and, more specifically, the Lansing area. Bull estimates that an international user community of more than 1,000 scientists will utilize the research capabilities that FRIB will offer.
“It’s a huge economic impact for the area,” Bull said. “It’s not just the construction dollars and the scientific impact, it’s the operating funds after we complete. It keeps the lab viable for 20 to 25 years. That’s a big deal.”
*Prior to the creation of Infrastructure Planning and Facilities in January 2013, several IPF departments were a part of the now-dissolved MSU Physical Plant. Some historical articles on this website reference that former unit.
maintenance mechanic II
FRIB conventional facilities division director
FRIB conventional facilities division deputy director
information technologist I
construction planner/inspector/analyst I
senior contract administrator
business operations manager
construction planner/inspector/analyst I
technical assistant II
landscape architect II/supervisor
administrative assistant II/supervisor
graphic artist II
computer systems and networking manager
Business and Personnel manager
landscape architect II
electrical skilled trades inspector