DAVID SKORTON: Welcome everyone and good afternoon. I want to welcome and thank you for coming out to the Wilson Laboratory today. I'm David Skorton, President of Cornell University. I am delighted and honored that Senator Charles Schumer is joining us here. He makes a point of visiting every county in the state of New York every year, and I'm glad he included us on this swing through Tompkins County, as he does so often.
Before I turn the podium over to him, and he always likes me to keep this short, I want to stress that universities like Cornell-- Cornell, but not just Cornell-- have no better friend in Washington than Chuck Schumer.
Whether it's support for the students and their families with legislation to extend the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which was a critical, critical thing this last year; or his leadership on the Dream Act, over for which I still have high hopes--
CHARLES SCHUMER: We do, we do.
DAVID SKORTON: --or support for our alumni with his efforts to establish permanent residency for international STEM graduates in his comprehensive immigration reform bill, something else that I fully believe will happen because of Senator Schumer and his colleagues; or support for you, for the faculty and staff, through his tireless advocacy to maintain and increase funding for research at agencies like the National Institutes of Health, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture, and, relevant to today, the National Science Foundation; or support for the institutions themselves and for our communities through his understanding of the links among education and research and economic development, Chuck Schumer has always been there for us and has been a stalwart during my eight years so far at Cornell.
And while he's usually out front--
CHARLES SCHUMER: He's here to announce another 10 years.
DAVID SKORTON: 10 years working with you. And while he's usually out front in the most pressing national and international issues, Chuck Schumer never forgets that he's our senior senator for New York. The local issues that will never make the Sunday talk shows receive just as much attention-- and I would say, from my experience, more attention-- from this gentleman and his staff. He doesn't just pay lip service to the kind of concerns that we deal with every day in a small town like Ithaca. He makes it happen.
Now, remind you how we got here today. Nearly three years ago, as the National Science Foundation was making decisions about the Cornell High-Energy Synchrotron Source, we started talking to Senator Schumer about this facility. Folks around here know, but for those of you who may not know, that CHESS and its storage ring, CESR, C-E-S-R, have been at Cornell since 1978.
For the past 35 years the National Science Foundation has invested more than $1 billion in infrastructure and human capital at CHESS and CESR. These facilities have grown from very modest roots in particle physics to become what is arguably the most flexible and diverse research tool available to scientists across many, many different disciplines.
There's many examples. Rod Mackinnon, a physician scientist from Rockefeller University, who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry, for example, for work done at CHESS using x-ray crystallography to understand the structure of potassium channels. Right now the U.S. Air Force is using CHESS to understand metal fatigue in ways that will improve the reliability and safety of aircraft.
And CHESS also serves the entire nation by educating the next generation of accelerator and synchrotron scientists, training more leaders in these areas than any other place, not only in the nation but in the world. So when I first met with the senator about CHES, I knew immediately that he understood that our plea for another competition was more than just for another Cornell program, but that it was also an important resource for the competitiveness of our area, and our state, and the entire country.
Since that time, he has worked with us, mostly behind the scenes, as always, to champion the future of CHESS. His support ensured that this team, many of you, were able to submit an outstanding proposal, one that was judged by a rigorous peer review on its merits, to the NSF for CHESS's renewal. And it's with extreme gratitude for his support and strong admiration for his dedication that I introduce to you New York's senior senator, Charles Schumer.
CHARLES SCHUMER: Thank you, President. Thank you. Thank you, President Skorton. It is really great to be here. And first I want to thank you for the great job you have done for Cornell. I worry about Cornell. It's such a great institution, and you always want it to get better, and better, and better.
And when I first met David Skorton, I said, well, I hope this guy's OK. He's a scientist from the Midwest. It's a big university. And he has exceeded everybody's expectations, which were high to begin with. He's done an amazing job in every aspect. In faculty relations, not the easiest part of being a university president, in fundraising, in groundbreaking thinking that moved Cornell again to the head of the pack, over and over again. I mean, he's a Renaissance man when it comes to being college president.
So you always wish someone who's done you, meaning the Cornell family, so well the best as they move on to another great assignment. But I did say to him when I met him, paraphrasing the 1960s song, we're going to miss you when you're gone. Who sang it? I don't remember either. Find out. We'll find out in a minute and announce it at the end of my brief remarks, due to modern technology that probably in part was developed right here at Cornell, one way or another.
But anyway, I want to thank David Skorton for the great job he's done here. He really has . And the only thing I asked of him, when I have staff who've worked for me long and hard and they move on to something, I so regret them leaving, but I'm so glad for them that they're going on to another assignment that they're excited about. That's just how I feel about President Skorton. And the only thing I asked him is to do everything he could to make sure he has a successor every bit as good as he's been. That's about it. Hi, Mayor. I didn't see you there. Nice to see you.
OK. Well, it's great to be here at this great place. I just want to tell all of you my little history in science. I was a chemistry major. When I went to college, I thought I'd be a chemistry major. I loved it.
And I went to Harvard. And the Harvard chemistry department was tired that 90% of the people who took chemistry were doing it just for pre-med. So if you'd sign a statement that you weren't interested in pre-med, and of course I wasn't, you took a two-year course of 15 people taught by the following four people.
First, one year of organic, one year of PChem. In organic was Woodward, the greatest organic chemist probably of the 20th century. And it was split by Westheimer, who I think won a Nobel Prize after that, and a guy named von Doering, who had synthesized quinine in World War II. PChem was taught by Lipscomb, who won a Nobel Prize for boron, I think it was, chemistry. And I can't remember the other person, but also equally famous and a Nobel laureate. Pardon? It was E. Bright Wilson. That's exactly right.
And so I have a little knowledge of this. But I have to tell you, the reason I'm here in politics-- one of the reasons-- is I didn't think I was smart enough to be really good in those subjects, and so I decided to become a politician instead. No, I love politics. It was the McCarthy campaign, for those of you my age, anti-war. And I just loved it and I'm glad I made the choice.
But I did see how great minds think and all the great things going on. And computers were just starting then, and you'd spend hours at the [INAUDIBLE] tape typing out these punch cards, and COBOL, and putting them in big machines, and all that stuff. Anyway, it's great to be here.
Let me talk a little bit about why we're here. And I want to thank Joel Brock, who does a great job directing this facility, and we'll hear from him in a minute, as well as the Mayor for being here, who cares so much about Cornell because it's such a vital part of Ithaca, and everyone else who is here today, including Dr. Patterson, who is also here as I understand it. Yes? Oh, thank you. And Dr. Fontes, thank you for being here as well.
So you may remember I was here in 2012 to announce that CHESS had dodged a bullet, chemical bullet, I suppose. Back then the NSF was reviewing the funding agreement with Cornell and considering cutting the CHESS lab entirely. They had this idea they were going to build some new facility somewhere in Michigan and they didn't need CHESS anymore. Since the lab receives over 20% of its funding from NSF, the cut would have spelled the end of CHESS as a lab as we know it in all likelihood.
And I thought that was just so terribly wrong. The cuts we have had for NSF and NIH, just to put it in practical terms, there are probably three industries where America dominates the world-- jobs, good paying jobs. First is finance. That's because it's just part of the American grain, started by the Dutch when they began in Manhattan Island. It's part of the Dutch culture more than the English culture actually that spread throughout America.
But the second is our tech industries, which started because of government investments in NSF and DARPA. And the third is our pharmaceutical industry, which in good part owes itself to investments in NIH. So to cut these things is cutting your seed corn. If you care about middle class incomes declining, which I do, and most politicians talk about these days to cut NSF and NIH and to put choices, Michigan versus Cornell, didn't make any sense. We need more, not less of this type of funding.
Nonetheless, NSF was faced with this dilemma and wanted to put the end to CHESS. We marshaled our resources. I called the head of NSF, I lobbied hard with OMB, and the White House itself to tell them that the cut was wrongheaded and bad for our country.
Because CHESS, as everyone knows here, CHESS is one of only two high-energy synchrotron x-ray sources in the entire country. It's played a pivotal role in medical discoveries, keeping people alive, scientific breakthroughs, and, as President Skorton mentioned, has been responsible for at least two Nobel prizes, 2003 and 2009, research done here, probably more indirectly.
They use a high-intensity x-ray and radiation to test hypotheses in physics, biology, chemistry, and many other fields. And what's been accomplished over the past 10 years, and what they are bound to accomplish, is of national import. So we were able to get NSF, based on all those arguments, to give us a little time to extend the funding and maintain their support.
And that secured the short-term support for the lab, but we didn't want to rest there. We wanted to make sure there was long-term funding, given the competition from Michigan and other places. So on this front, as President Skorton mentioned, we have great news. The NSF is going to deliver $100 million over the next five years to this research facility. So that ensures its continuation for a good, long time to come. And we won't stop now. We're going to plan for years 6 through 15 that we've accomplished this.
What does it mean? It means CHESS is on firm financial ground. It can plan, or they can plan, the people who work here can plan their research, not just for a year but for the next 5 to 10 years, without a sudden cut or drop in support. It means the federal government believes that Cornell, and the CHESS lab in particular, are worthy of substantial investment. And it means that the work done here is a national priority.
I want to say a little something about the work so the media and everybody knows. CHESS is working with the Air Force Research Lab to develop new x-ray tools to study stress, strain, and fatigue in materials, especially materials used to build airplanes, military and commercial. The researchers here are collaborating with the Department of Energy and the Materials Center at Cornell to study structural atomic level changes in real time during the operation of lithium in batteries and hydrogen fuel cells.
Research done here could solve our global warming problem almost. Because if we can develop a hydrogen fuel cell, we won't need gasoline and we won't have to have carbon going up in the air. As you know, the byproduct of a hydrogen fuel cell is not CO2, but H2O. CHESS x-ray stations are used by pharmaceutical companies to develop new drugs using x-ray crystallography, the primary technique used to determine the atomic structure of molecules.
It's used by many recent universities to perform basic health research. It's one of the few x-ray stations in the U.S. equipped to study toxic viruses. Drugs that develop that fight both AIDS and the common cold are here in the pipeline. How could anyone want to stop this for a relatively small amount of money? I mean, $100 million is a lot of money, but not in federal budget terms.
An example of how CHESS moves our economy forward. ADC in Lansing nearby, they market innovative products developed at CHESS to researchers across the country. As always, science does not exist in a vacuum. Research performed at CHESS has led to the development of commercial products, new businesses, new jobs. The unique capability of this lab, along with the great research staff, some of whom are here-- how many total people work here, Dr. Brock?
JOEL BROCK: 130 people.
CHARLES SCHUMER: 130 People, of which we have about 25% are here. And so, I'm proud of this place as New York Senator. It's one of the things that I'm proud of about New York. And I'll be behind you all the way. So when your new students come in next fall and say what's the future of this place, tell them not to worry. It's going to have a long, vibrant future.
The pride I have here fuels my belief in the relationship between the federal government and the scientific community. As I mentioned, basic research, that is only going to be funded by the federal government, no private company. We don't have an AT&T anymore, a monopoly that has the wherewithal to fund any of this. So only the federal government can fund it. If we don't, no one will. Probably no one in the world, maybe the Chinese 20 years from now. But by then, look at what we will have lost.
So one of my highest priorities is funding for basic scientific research in the whole federal budget. Not simply because of the great work done here at Cornell, not just at CHESS. Cornell is at the top of the list in both NSF and NIH grants in the country. I don't know, I think you're number four, or something.
DAVID SKORTON: NSF higher than that.
CHARLES SCHUMER: Yeah, NSF higher, NIH a little lower. But I think together-- well, you're way, way, way, way up there. But because I believe this is what America needs. Now with another five years of funding, I look forward to hearing in the next few years about the next groundbreaking discovery, the next new technology, the next Nobel Prize that was won here and done here at CHESS. With that let me call on Mr. Brock.
DAVID SKORTON: Senator, thank you not just for the remarks but for everything you do. Many of us talk, many of us try, you succeed. Thank you very much. I wanted to grab the mic to introduce Joel for two reasons. One, I want to say a little something about Joel Brock, but I want to talk about Joel Brock as an exemplar of what the real strength of this is. It's not the infrastructure, it's the people. And it's the people whose jobs will be protected by this, it's the discoveries that people will make, it's the people who will be taught, it's the people who will have ideas that are not even imaginable now because this will have a future.
And as one large example of the kind of people that make CHESS what it is, I'm going to tell you about Joel. Joel is the director of CHESS and also Professor of applied and engineering physics, another one of those areas at Cornell Center that's always at the top of the heap. He's affiliated with both the Cornell Center for Material Science and the Energy Materials Center that you mentioned.
And during his 25-year career, Joel has won awards for both teaching and advising, and that's in the face of a very distinguished research career. Just one example, in 2012 Joel was elected by his peers as a fellow of the American Physical Society for his work using synchrotron x-rays to measure the structure dynamics and growth of complex oxide thin films. Joel Brock.
JOEL BROCK: Thank you, President Skorton. And I'd like to take this opportunity to add my thanks to Senator Schumer for his steadfast support of the National Science Foundation in general and CHESS in particular.
The Cornell High-Energy Synchrotron Source is supported by the National Science Foundation as a national user facility. CHESS's mission is to provide unique x-ray facilities to researchers from all over the United States and around the world to enable their research in important areas, including next generation of batteries, novel catalytic electronic and magnetic materials, low-weight composites for fuel-efficient aircraft, environmental science, and the discovery of new pharmaceuticals supporting human health.
Each year CHESS supports over 1,200 visits by scientists. CHESS is also an international leader in two other key areas, the training of the next generation of scientists and the development of new x-ray technology and techniques. Indeed, CHESS rests upon a decades long legacy of innovative accelerator physics and x-ray science accomplishments at Cornell.
The CHESS award we're celebrating today is large, both by Cornell and by NSF standards. At $20 million a year, it directly employs over 130 people. In addition, CHESS supports eight graduate students and three postdoctoral research associates.
As you can imagine, in the current federal budget climate, NSF is really careful with its resources. Therefore, the process by which NSF selects large projects is correspondingly rigorous and in-depth. In 2012, Senator Schumer was instrumental in articulating the importance of CHESS and in encouraging NSF to initiate the renewal process.
NSF's proposal process for facilities begins with a determination of national need. Once need has been determined-- or in our case, reaffirmed-- the NSF solicits a formal written proposal. These proposals receive intensive review. First, experts prepare anonymous written reviews. Next, a visiting committee of experts, armed with the written reviews, reviews both the proposal and the facility and prepares its own detailed report.
Then it continues. With these reports in hand, the NSF performs its own detailed internal review. Finally, the NSF presents its recommendations to the National Science Board, which makes a final decision. This isn't a quick process. In our, case began in the spring of 2012 and it was completed just today.
As you can imagine, a large number of people, both here at Cornell and at the NSF, have worked very hard for many months on this renewal. Many of them are here in the room today, others cannot be here. But I'd like to publicly thank them all for their hard work. Give them a hand.
Throughout this process, Senator Schumer has been a consistent supporter and advocate for CHESS. Most importantly, Senator Schumer is a good friend of science and basic research. He's been a long-term, consistent, and effective advocate for the National Science Foundation and for federal science funding in general. Thank you, Senator Schumer.
CHARLES SCHUMER: Thank you, Mr. Brock.
JOEL BROCK: Thank you.
CHARLES SCHUMER: Any of the three are ready for questions. First on this subject, then they sometimes have questions for me on other subjects.
DAVID SKORTON: And I'll take the pop flies and the senator will take the line drives. Baseball season.
CHARLES SCHUMER: And by the way, it was Patty Griffin, I'm Going to Miss You When You're Gone. Technology. Probably CHESS had something to do with it.
DAVID SKORTON: Questions for Dr. Brock or the Senator?
SPEAKER 1: How directly does what happens in this facility move into the other elements of the university as well? Do you have a couple of specific examples of other parts of this university that are fuelled by what happens here?
JOEL BROCK: Yeah. Can you hear me now? The facilities we have here enable a lot of our major research centers. So the Center for Materials Research, the Energy Materials Center are able to propose innovative research programs based on the technologies and capabilities we have here. They really enable innovative new techniques, approaches, and materials, and so on.
CHARLES SCHUMER: Well, even biology is related here because the kinds of things this machine can see in terms of atomic structure help sciences across the board. Is that a fair thing to say?
SPEAKER 1: So safe to say that if this money wasn't secured there would be effects throughout the campus felt without this here.
JOEL BROCK: Absolutely.
DAVID SKORTON: And if I could just add one thing. I think, Wright, you're talking about negative effects. I also want to talk for a second about the opportunity cost of lost opportunities. So not only would we lose things that are going on now, not only with many of these jobs over 100 be at immediate risk at a time where we can ill afford to see people's jobs at risk in such a specialized area, but the opportunity cost.
One of the many beautiful things about Ithaca, it's a town just the right size. It's big enough to have all the cultural and other amenities that bring people here and keep us here for long periods of time, but it's small enough that you might bump into someone at the rutabaga counter, or whatever, or steaks, or whatever your thing is.
And in that exchange, you may say, well, what have been up to? And I'm doing this, and I wonder if that has any relevance to what I'm doing. And those small interchanges-- I know Dr. Brock will agree-- sometimes lead to formal ideas that lead to whole new lines of research and education. And so that opportunity cost of not having such a meeting place for disparate disciplines would also be a huge loss.
Now harking back to what the senator said about the importance of overall science, just multiply that, Greg, times the many, many communities around the country that depend on National Science Foundation support. We're here just as much to celebrate the importance of the NSF as we are to talk about this particular facility.
CHARLES SCHUMER: Other questions? Good. Any other subjects? No. Terrific.
SPEAKER 2: I have one on the topic of--
CHARLES SCHUMER: You don't have to stand here in case you don't agree with me and whatever I say.
SPEAKER 2: My questions for you, Senator, is why do you believe that another Sandy Hook style attack could happen in the future. And also what could be done to prevent it?
CHARLES SCHUMER: Well, you know, I think every parent now has a worry they didn't have a few years ago. Even when I sent my kids to school-- and they're now 24 and 29-- you worry. You put them on the school bus, wave goodbye, hope they come back safe. But with the advent of Sandy Hook and so many other violent incidents on campuses-- we just saw that stabbing in Marysville, not too far away from here in Pittsburgh-- parents have that worry.
Now, how do you stop those things? Well, there are a whole variety of ways. Some schools decide to use certain detection devices. Some schools use education. We certainly need more mental health services in our schools so that somebody who might be so disposed to do such an attack is caught and dealt with in a fair way at times.
So there are lots of things that we can do in this society. Technology is a wonderful blessing, sometimes it's a curse. You can buy a gun on the internet, or see something online that you'd never even dream of doing before and people are copycats, and things like that. So we have to be more vigilant, and there are things that we can do. And the prevalence of these types of horrible incidents in the classroom is much greater in the last five years than it's ever been. OK. Thanks everybody.
DAVID SKORTON: Thanks everyone.
CHARLES SCHUMER: And by the way, it is Dyngus Day. Anyone of Polish origin? It's the day after Easter and it's a celebration. And I'm now going to Buffalo to march in the Dyngus Day parade. So happy Dyngus Day.
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Arduous scrutiny by the National Science Foundation (NSF) has found the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS) rich in scientific discovery and exemplary in its use of government funds.
In an April 21, 2014 press conference, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), along with Cornell President David Skorton and CHESS director Joel Brock, announced CHESS has received its requested grant renewal of up to $100 million over five years, securing the national X-ray facility's near-term future.