Government lab may give UTA some research muscle

By Patrick Mcgee
Star-Telegram Staff Writer
Posted on Sun, Aug. 17, 2003

An official from a prestigious nuclear weapons research complex said he sees opportunities for collaboration with the University of Texas at Arlington and wants to explore opportunities with UT-Dallas.

Tom Bickel, director of engineering sciences for Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, N.M., said recently that he and other officials from the research center visited UT-Arlington and UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas on Aug. 5.

Bickel said in a recent interview that he sees possibilities for collaboration with UT-Arlington's nanotechnology program, which works to build tiny devices on the molecular level, and with UT-Southwestern's biomedical program.

Bickel said he and other officials will visit UT-Dallas in mid-September "before we make any future steps here."

"It really predicates on us finding research at all three sites," Bickel said.

Business leaders in Dallas and Arlington are keen to boost research at the UT campuses because they believe it would spur economic development.

UT System and business leaders have discussed getting the UT campuses in North Texas to cooperate in their efforts to bolster research, something that Bickel said UT System Chancellor Mark Yudof has asked of Sandia officials.

Bill Carroll, UT-Arlington's dean of engineering, met with Sandia officials in early August and said they seemed impressed with what the campus has to offer. He said he expects university officials to visit Sandia's labs soon.

"The idea of forming an official collaboration would give us opportunities on several different fronts," Carroll said. "One would be to receive research funding from them."

Carroll said UT-Arlington professors might someday be able to go to Sandia's labs to use research equipment. Bickel said Sandia is building a Center for Integrated Nanotechnology that will be used partly by visiting professors.

Da Hsuan Feng, UT-Dallas vice president for research and graduate education, said his campus already has some ties with Sandia, such as having one of the lab's top scientists on a UT-Dallas committee that promotes the campus' research efforts.

Feng said he wants to work to foster collaboration among the UT System's North Texas campuses.

"By ourselves we are still not quite at the national threshold as a major research powerhouse," Feng said. "But I believe if we put our energies together, we can rapidly move toward that goal."