NIST Gives Pitt $15 Million Grant to Expand Nanoscience, Experimental Physics Facilities

Issue Date: 
January 25, 2010
George KlinzingGeorge Klinzing

A $15 million grant Pitt recently received from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is the keystone of a four-year, $27.8 million expansion of the University’s nanoscience and experimental physics facilities. The renovation—to which Pitt will contribute $12.8 million—encompasses four buildings and will provide the School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Physics and Astronomy with 13 new or significantly enhanced laboratories, including space for three new faculty members.

“The project focuses on strengthening Pitt’s research in applying advanced physics—including nanoscience, semiconductors, and quantum physics—to areas ranging from energy and information technology to health care and climate change study,” said George Klinzing, Pitt’s vice provost for research.

“The Department of Physics and Astronomy is home to the nanoscience and experimental physics research that is critical to the University’s 2005 NanoScience and Technology Initiative,” Klinzing added. “We project that these new facilities and associated faculty recruitments will lead to a significant increase in sponsored research funding; the creation of new technologies in scientific measurements; novel electronic devices and technologies; better understanding of large-scale storms and hurricanes; improved telecommunication devices; and the ability to provide first-class graduate education and training for additional graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.”

N. John Cooper, the Bettye J. and Ralph E. Bailey Dean of Arts and Sciences, stated, “The science of the smallest objects requires large facilities, and the generous support from NIST will lay the foundation for next-generation facilities for our experimental physicists.”

The renovation is one of only 12 major “shovel-ready” construction projects nationwide that NIST—which supplies and oversees the nation’s standards of measurement, including the official time—funded with $123 million available through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Pitt is the only institution in Pennsylvania to receive an award and joins such other institutions as Columbia, Georgetown, and Purdue universities. The projects NIST funded were chosen from 167 proposals.

Pitt’s renovation will provide state-of-the-art labs, research support areas, and offices for current and prospective faculty members specializing in condensed matter and nanoscience. The number of tenure-stream faculty working in these areas will be expanded from eight to 11 with a new chaired professorship, a junior hire in nanoscience, and a junior hire in biological physics. The plan calls for 75,000 square feet in new laboratories in Allen Hall, the Nuclear Physics Laboratory, and Old Engineering Hall, as well as an open-floor, interdisciplinary physics machine shop. It also includes 27,000 square feet of laboratory space for which Pitt will pursue U.S. Green Building Council LEED™ (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

The University has significantly expanded its infrastructure to support experimental physics in recent years by establishing the Petersen Institute of NanoScience and Engineering housed in the Swanson School of Engineering with the associated NanoScale Fabrication and Characterization Facility. Pitt has also established the Center for Oxide-Semiconductor Materials for Quantum Computation in the physics and astronomy department.