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Originally appeared in Friday, April 02, 2004 Oak Ridger

"We'll be best in the world"

RACE IS ON: ORNL working to be a leader in biology and nanoscale research.
By: Paul Parson, Oak Ridger Staff

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is going for the gold in what the facility's director calls the three "early 21st century research themes."

This includes a proposal for the construction of a "leadership-class computer." Lab officials sent the proposal to the Department of Energy this morning, with hopes of eventually dethroning Japan's Earth Simulator, which can perform 35.8 trillion operations per second, as the world's fastest supercomputer.

Jeff Wadsworth, ORNL's director, said computing is essential to addressing major scientific challenges. The new supercomputer would be used to solve problems that cannot be or are too expensive to be solved experimentally.

Jeff Wadsworth, director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, discusses the future of the federal research facility during a public talk Thursday night at the American Museum of Science and Energy.

Wadsworth talked about the supercomputer plans as well as the other "early 21st century research themes" during his first State of the Laboratory address Thursday night at the American Museum of Science and Energy. His talk was part of the 2004 Community Lecture Series sponsored by Friends of ORNL.

The Oak Ridge lab is well on its way to being a leader in the research area of nanoscale science and technology. According to Wadsworth, this will involve some world-class tools like the High Flux Isotope Reactor, the Spallation Neutron Source and the Center for Nanophase Materials Science.

"We will be the best in the world," Wadsworth said. "It's just that simple."

HFIR is already one of the world's most powerful research reactors while the SNS, which is currently under construction, will provide the most intense pulsed neutron beams in the world for scientific research and industrial development. The Center for Nanophase Materials Science is one of five nanoscale science research centers currently being established by DOE's Office of Science.

With the William L. and Liane B. Russell Laboratory for Comparative and Functional Genomics (aka the Mouse House) now in operation and the proposed Joint Institute for Biological Sciences, Wadsworth said ORNL is gearing up its biology program to support DOE's genomic missions.

The state-funded Joint Institute for Biological Sciences will be part of an ORNL competitive bid to locate a federally funded $280 million Genomes to Life facility at ORNL. The Genomes to Life facility was included in the DOE Office of Science 20-year facilities plan.

During his speech, Wadsworth also talked about transferring ORNL technologies to the marketplace. Since UT-Battelle took over as ORNL's manager in April 2000, the company has been active in promoting the creation of new companies using technologies developed at the research facility.

"We spun out 30 in the last three years," he said.

Also, a $150-million fund will be used to create new or support existing early stage companies that can materially benefit from technologies that emerge from Battelle and the national labs the company manages or co-manages, including ORNL.

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