Last week, I had a very insightful visit to the Fermi National
Accelerator Laboratory — known as Fermilab — in Illinois. This lab specializes
in high-energy particle physics and works to uncover the big secrets held by
the smallest particles of matter, including how the universe began and what we
are made of. Fermilab also houses many
NSF-funded experiments looking at the nature of neutrinos and other subatomic
During our visit, Matteo Renzi, former Prime
Minister of Italy; Dr. Antonio Masiero, vice president for research of the
Instituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare; James Ulvestad, acting assistant
director for NSF’s Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate; and U.S.
Congressman Randy Hultgren talked about “how countries choose and commit to
global scientific partnerships with high costs, broad impacts and longtime
Shaking hands with former Prime Minister of Italy Matteo Renzi. Photo credit: Reidar Hahn
NSF is committed to long-term scientific partnerships. Collaboration
and partnerships between disciplines and institutions among academia, industry
and government enable people, ideas and tools that transform our world and
advance the frontiers of knowledge. A great example is the recent LIGO and Virgo first-ever detection of gravitational waves produced by colliding
neutron stars. The discovery was made using the U.S.-based Laser Interferometer
Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO); the Europe-based Virgo detector; and
some 70 ground- and space-based observatories. This discovery came decades after NSF and the National Science Board approved initial
funding to Caltech and MIT to construct and operate LIGO. It took time, money
and dedication, but the detection of that loud “chirp” many decades later is
nothing short of extraordinary.
The sky is the limit for what we can accomplish
through partnerships and sustained commitment!
I leave you with these photos I took during my visit – this group of
students from Homewood-Flossmoor High School outfitted themselves as
Schroedinger’s equation for Halloween. Touring Fermilab, they may be inspired
to become future scientists!