A partnership agreement between the UT System and Sandia National Laboratory March 19 sends UTD on a new wave of research collaboration.
The partnership will allow joint research in areas such as nano-science, engineering, computer science and homeland security between Sandia – located in Albuquerque, N.M. – and UTD, UT Arlington and UT Southwestern Medical Center.
“The most fundamental way (the partnership) affects UTD is by expanding the community of potential close collaborators,” said Hobson Wildenthal, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost. “But, right now what we have is a piece of paper that we have to make real by actual projects, actual faculty, actual students.”
The partnership agreement was forged largely by U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, who said one day she hopes Texas will become a “research powerhouse.”
“If America is going to stay at the forefront of technology so that we are its creators, not just its users and consumers, we must support research,” Hutchison said in a March 19 UT System press release. “We also must show young people that engineering, science, medicine and math are great career opportunities.”
One thing students will see in the immediate future are internships and job opportunities.
“Encouraging permanent employment is the real value ultimately for Sandia, so that’s not bad for students,” Wildenthal said. “There are only three or four labs like Sandia with one-of-a-kind, cutting edge, major experimental facilities. It will be easier to use their equipment, which pushes research faster and faster.”
Da Hsuan Feng, vice president for research and graduate education, also agreed the partnership will greatly benefit students.
“In order to challenge students intellectually, we need to provide them with the opportunity to expand their minds with research,” Feng said. “All kinds of opportunities openings up and this will benefit students enormously.”
President Franklyn Jenifer said he thinks the partnership speaks volumes of UTD.
“There are few institutions in the country (Sandia) can work with,” Jenifer said. “I think that makes a major statement.”
UTD attempted a partnership with Sandia in 2001, but after Sept. 11, the collaboration fell through, Feng said. But, the current partnership sets UTD on a 10-year track of becoming a top-100 school nationwide.
“It’s not going to happen overnight, but let’s hope in the next decade we get there,” Feng said.
The UT System bid for management of Sandia in 2002, but the contract was extended to Lockheed Martin.
The System is currently considering a bid for the Los Alamos management contract. The UT System Board of Regents allocated $500,000 in January to analyze a potential bid.
Jenifer said the Sandia partnership could potentially affect the bid for management of Los Alamos National Laboratory.
“When you have a relationship (with a national laboratory) it certainly helps,” Jenifer said. “It lets them know we have an interest in a level of quality.”