Thom Dunning listens to students
  News-Sentinel photo by Michael Patrick


Thom Dunning, center, listens as students Ian Watkins, left, and Guruprasad Kora explain their project in a lab at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Dunning is director of the Joint Institute for Compuational Sciences, a joint venture between UT and ORNL.

John Shumaker
  John Shumaker, president of the Univeristy of Tennesse

from Knoxville News-Sentinel
November 18, 2002
 
original URL: http://www.knoxnews.com/kns/sci_and_tech/article/0,1406,KNS_328_1551161,00.html

UT, Oak Ridge lab growing closer again


Shumaker emphasizes relationship

By Larisa Brass, News-Sentinel business writer
November 18, 2002

Chalk it up to common Pittsburgh rootsor similar blood levels of enthusiasm, but the phone lines are crackling again between Oak Ridge and the University of Tennessee.

"He and I get along famously," said UT National Laboratory Director Bill Madia.

The two speak at least once a week by phone. They discuss everything from Pittsburgh sports teams to the UT/ORNLjoint institutes now being formed into a program that will associate all lab researchers and postdoctoral assistants with the university.

UT-Battelle, a partnership between the university and Ohio-based Battelle Corp., contracts with the Department of Energy to run ORNL.

"We're taking that partnership very seriously," Shumaker said. "It's a critical component of the university's agenda."

Madia said that kind of interest from the university had faltered since former UT president Joe Johnson helped bring UT and Battelle together to bid on the lab contract several years ago.

"I think John has sort of rekindled that spirit of direct communication," Madia said. "I was part of the interview process with John and, frankly, the first time I met him in Kentucky he saw clearly that relationship (between UT and ORNL), and he openly talks about that as the reason he came to UT."

Madia said the most important thing Shumaker brings to his new position is "energy and commitment."

Said Madia, "At the lab or the university, when the leader of an organization is openly energetic about a partnership, good things happen. He's not just saying it, he does things about it."

For example, one of Shumaker's first moves was modifying a UT television ad that plays during college football games to mention the lab partnership, Madia said.

"There's a lot of difference between results and rhetoric," he said.

Other changes, such as appointing a chancellor for UT's Knoxville campus, working to set up a research foundation and working with ORNL to develop a joint faculty base between the institutions also demonstrate his commitment, Madia said.

One specific result of Shumaker's emphasis on research is the recent appointment of Thom Dunning as a distinguished scientist to head the Joint Institute of Computational Scientists, currently under construction at the lab. The state is funding construction of the joint institute, which will be operated by UT and ORNL.

"The first real success is our ability to attract people like Thom Dunning back to the lab and UT," Madia said. "This is a people sport that we play, and getting people like Dunning and others to come here is real important."

Some observers have been critical of what they view as a failure by the university to capitalize on ORNL's 1,500 scientists, $870 million federal and corporate dollars and the focus and funding Battelle brings to the lab's economic- development efforts.

"I think people wanted dramatic results too quickly," Shumaker said. "It takes a while for two behemoth organizations to get their resources meshed."

But he added, "It's probably true that the instability of leadership at the university slowed things down a little bit."

However, setting up the joint institutes - two more, in biological sciences and neutron sciences, are on the way - and affiliating ORNL researchers with UT go a long way toward bringing the organizations together, Shumaker said.

"We're teaching courses out there, we're sending students out there, we're going to have staff there teaching our students," Shumaker said. "So all these infrastructure issues just take a while to work through.

"There's a lot of intense interaction. It's roiling beneath the surface, and it's not bubbling up yet to show dramatic results, but you'll see that happening in the next couple of months."

Copyright 2002, KnoxNews. All Rights Reserved.
Mirrored with permission.


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