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Four national lab directors tour research corridor


The director of one of the country’s top government laboratories says North Dakota is earning a national reputation for research facilities at its major universities.

“The Great Plains states traditionally have been viewed as the granary of the United States,” said Robert Rosner, director of the Argon National Laboratory near Chicago. “It’s a revelation to see that picture changing.

“It’s not that you guys are disappearing as a granary, but you’re also becoming a key part of the technology revolution in the United States,” he said.

Rosner and three other national lab directors toured buildings and met with researchers Tuesday at North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota.

“These are very significant Americans who have very big jobs,” said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who arranged the tour.

The four men said they came to North Dakota to find out ways they can further partner in research with NDSU and UND. Scientists from both schools already are working on projects with the national labs.

“I think our main expectation was just to learn a little,” said Michael Kluse, director of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington state. “We’re going to go home much better informed.”

Thom Mason, director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, said the North Dakota labs are valuable for “filling in gaps” in research. Mason said NDSU stands out with its work in marine coatings, biomass and nanoscience.

“One of the things you do in setting your agenda is play to your strengths and look for partners to help mitigate your weaknesses,” Mason said. “We’re a strong materials lab and there’s a lot of terrific research and research tools here that I think are interesting.”

Carl Bauer, director of the National Energy Technology Laboratory, which has six different sites, said he plans to bring some of his researchers back to North Dakota.

“Many of the things that are here I was not aware of,” Bauer said. “We’ve had some really exciting briefings.”

Rosner said he was surprised to discover an extensive research system that was created only six years ago.

“It’s amazing to see the acceleration,” he said. “All these buildings I see around here, they’re all new and they’re not empty. They’re full of equipment and full of people doing interesting work.”

– Associated Press

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