NSCL is a world-leading laboratory for rare isotope research and nuclear science education. With support from the U.S. National Science Foundation, the laboratory operates as a national user facility that serves more than 700 researchers from 100 institutions in 35 countries.
Nuclear physics research began at Michigan State University (MSU) in 1958. In the decades that followed, MSU became known for its innovations in nuclear science and associated cross-disciplinary research, both in the United States and worldwide. Major contributions have been made in the fields of nuclear structure, nuclear astrophysics, heavy-ion reaction mechanisms, accelerator physics, beam dynamics and experimental techniques.
NSCL also is the source of innovations that improve lives. A medical cyclotron built by the laboratory in the 1980s was used to treat cancer patients at Harper University Hospital in Detroit for more than 15 years. More recently, NSCL technology and design concepts were used in a new, higher-powered medical cyclotron built by Varian Medical Systems. The collaboration agreement, an example of technology transfer that returns benefits to the university, will bring more advanced nuclear therapy to cancer patients in several countries.
Over the years, NSCL has evolved into the largest campus-based nuclear science facility in the country. Today, the laboratory has 300 employees, including 28 faculty and about 100 students, half of them in doctoral programs.
MSU awards approximately 10 percent of the nation’s nuclear science doctorates and, according to U.S. News & World Report, is the best program in the nation for nuclear physics graduate education. The laboratory also offers several programs designed to give undergraduates meaningful, hands-on research experiences. Several dozen undergrads participate in such programs annually.
The NSCL's five-year operating grant – $100 million to fund the laboratory through 2011 – was renewed by the National Science Foundation in October 2006. In his memo to the National Science Board recommending the renewal, NSF Director Arden L. Bement, Jr. wrote that NSCL “serves as a focal point, both for the immediate generation of experiments, and for planning, design and possible construction of any future facility aimed at the succeeding generation of experiments using beams of unstable isotopes.”
In December 2006, NSCL released plans for the Isotope Science Facility, a capability upgrade that would provide the nuclear science research community with significantly increased intensities and varieties of world-class beams of rare isotopes well into the 21st century. After a long, hard-fought battle, the Department of Energy agreed with Mr. Bement, Jr.
In mid 2009, Michigan State University and the Department of Energy Office of Science signed a cooperative agreement to design a build a new $550 million Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB). Over the next decade, NSCL and MSU will be working to deliver the facility that will make the laboratory the number one spot to conduct rare isotope research in the world.
Meanwhile, in ongoing day-to-day operations, NSCL is laying the groundwork for a future in which it serves the anticipated requirements of the U.S. rare isotope research community; extends the frontiers of nuclear science; and enhances the nation’s workforce as it trains the next generation of science and technology professionals.