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Stimulus Funds Rice Facility
Jul 2009
HOUSTON, July 22, 2009 – Rice University physics researchers will no longer have to wait until the dead of night to conduct experiments with instruments highly sensitive to vibration, thanks to $11.1 million in federal stimulus funding from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

An artist’s rendering of what Rice University’s Brockman Hall for Physics will look like when completed. (Images: Rice University)

The money will be used to construct the Brockman Hall for Physics, a 110,000-sq-ft facility to support photonics, atomic/molecular/optical physics, biophysics, condensed-matter physics, and nanomaterials research and education relevant to the missions of the US Department of Commerce and NIST. Faculty from Rice’s department of physics and astronomy and the department of electrical and computer engineering will occupy the building, which is under construction and scheduled to open in the spring of 2011.

Barry Dunning, department of physics and astronomy chair, said the facility brings together a research team that has been spread across as many as six buildings at Rice. The researchers have often had to conduct experiments late at night to avoid traffic on nearby streets or even in the building that would skew results from highly sensitive instruments, he said.

“These are going to be absolutely state-of-the-art facilities, so we can do research and not be limited by the available space, vibration, humidity – all the things we’ve had problems with in the past,” Dunning said.

“This will really give us cutting-edge facilities – the equal of any other in the world – for the kind of high-precision measurements we want to do,” said Douglas Natelson, a Rice associate professor of physics and astronomy, and of electrical and computer engineering.

A still from a university Webcam shows construction of the Brockman Hall for Physics on July 22, 2009.

“We’ve been thinking from the very beginning of this process about what purpose this building will serve and how to get the most value for our investment,” said Kathleen Matthews, the Stewart Memorial Professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology who recently stepped down as dean of the Wiess School of Natural Sciences. “The contributions from the academic side – from the faculty through the chair and the dean – have been invaluable. The fact that NIST has given us this award is a wonderful validation of the hard work of the team that developed this proposal.”

The building, which previously received a naming gift from the A. Eugene Brockman Charitable Trust, is expected to earn silver status under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standard developed by the US Green Building Council.

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The scientific observation of celestial radiation that has reached the vicinity of Earth, and the interpretation of these observations to determine the characteristics of the extraterrestrial bodies and phenomena that have emitted the radiation.
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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