Skip to Main Content
  Contact Us
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
Board on Physics and Astronomy
Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences

Issues in Physics and Astronomy, Summer 2011
The newsletter of the BPA

In this issue:

  • BPA Spring Meeting Highlights
    The Board on Physics and Astronomy met at the Keck Center in Washington, DC for its spring 2011 meeting on April 29-30, 2011...  
  • Astro2010 Overview Booklet now available!
    With the completion of the Astro2010 Decadal Survey report, the NRC will be releasing an overview booklet summarizing the recommended scientific program...
  • Physics Education
    The Committee on Undergraduate Physics Education Research and Implementation, chaired by Don Langenberg, is a study is designed to identify and address some of the principal challenges and opportunities facing the undergraduate physics education and education research communities...  
  • Inertial Confinement Fusion
    The “IFE Committee” has been quite active since its kickoff meeting in mid-December 2010...
  • NP2010 
    The last of the decadal studies, on nuclear physics, is expected to be released in the winter of 2011-2012... 
    Underground laboratories are a relatively new kind of research facility, developed primarily because they provide the extremely quiet environment needed to study...
  • BPA Standing Committees
    Updates of CAMOS, Plasma Science, CMMRC, and CORF

Highlights of the Board on Physics and Astronomy

The Board on Physics and Astronomy met at the Keck Center in Washington, DC for its spring 2011 meeting on April 29-30, 2011.  The BPA meeting began with a closed session discussion to follow up discussions from the previous meeting on the roles and practices of standing committee and ad-hoc committees.

The open session began with talks from NSF representatives from the physics, materials research and astronomy divisions. Dr. Joe Dehmer, Director of the Division of Physics (NSF/PHY), began by reviewing the current budget outlook for NSF/PHY, which had an effective 5% increase across the division, with a 20% increase for research, after removing the funding for the DUSEL project, which NSF decided it would no longer pursue. In the rest of his talk, Dr. Dehmer discussed the status of the DUSEL, noting that the National Science Board (NSB) decided to discontinue funding for DUSEL within the MREFC line and discontinue funding long-term operations, effectively killing the project.  However, he also noted that NSF/PHY is still very interested in the forthcoming report from the NRC committee assessing science prospects for DUSEL.

A review of the budgetary outlook for NSF’S Division of Materials Research (NSF/DMR) by Director Dr. Ian Robertson was similar to NSF/PHY: a 6% increase over the division with a 13% increase for research.  DMR is focusing on several challenges, including enabling data-driven science.  Dr. Robertson notes that NSF requires data management plans in all proposals and that proposals should include information on how data will be stored and made available.

Dr. James Ulvestad, Director of the Astronomy Division (AST) at NSF presented highlights from the NSF’s response to the Astro2010 decadal survey, New Worlds, New Horizons (NWNH).  The NWNH top-ranked 8.4-m Large Synoptic Survey Telescope is aiming for an FY14 start while the mid-scale program is on hold.  AST is pursuing Gemini governance and optical and infrared astronomy system issues.  In light of the current budgetary outlook, AST will review the balance of its portfolio using key science questions from NWNH to determine the capabilities needed to address them in 2015, 2020, 2025.  It was also noted that proposal submissions have tripled in the past 20 years and the astronomy community was urged to stay involved and engaged.

2010_New Worlds New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics   2010_panel reports--new_worlds_new_horizons

The spectrum management discussion included presentations from both NSF and NASA program managers.  Dr. John Zuzek from the Office of Spectrum Management at NASA discussed his agency’s preparations for the upcoming World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) 2012, a periodic meeting of diplomats under the auspices of the United Nations at which foreign governments work out spectrum usage policies.  Defining spectrum usage above 275 GHz is a big topic right now.  The FCC’s National Broadband Plan, which is looking to free up to 500 MHz of spectrum for commercial purposes over the next 10 years, was also discussed and it was noted that the “freed” spectrum could very well include NASA-used spectrum.  Dr. Tom Gergely from NSF’s Office of Spectrum Management delivered a talk along the lines of Dr. Zuzek, wherein he discussed NSF’s planning for the upcoming WRC.  Dr. Gergely identified short-range vehicular radars as possibly problematic for radio astronomy observations as that technology’s use of the 76-77 GHz band expands.  He noted that industry has approached his office about the possible conflict, and the radio astronomy community, NSF, and industry are seeking to find a workable solution that will protect radio astronomy in this band.  Dr. Andrew Clegg (NSF) gave a talk on NSF’S new program, Enhancing Access to the Radio Spectrum (EARS), that “targets innovative and potentially transformational research that carefully considers the interplay of science, engineering, technology, applications, economics, social sciences, and public policy on spectrum efficiency and access.”  This program is intended to leverage NSF’s broad array of research programs to address inherently interdisciplinary problems.

Dr. Richard Howard, James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Program Director discussed the outlook for the project.  He noted that although roughly 74% of the JWST flight mass has passed critical design review, the budget [as of April 2011] is flat from FY12 out past FY20.  Mirrors, actuators, and instruments (ISIM) will be in storage for years, and there is concern about personnel leaving.  Dr. Jon Morse, Director, Astrophysics Division, Science Mission Directorate (SMD), NASA Headquarters, discussed the FY12 SMD budget.  JWST has been held to $375 M/yr; NASA Astrophysics will support the high-priority recommendations set out by NWNH, but only the technology development for large missions beyond JWST; the Joint Dark Energy Mission (JDEM) and Space Interferometry Mission (SIM) have been closed out; and the Chandra and Spitzer operations have been reduced.  The Science Definition Team is underway for WFIRST, the highest-priority large space mission of NWNH, and NASA and DOE have exchanged letters for a possible collaboration on a future mission.  The European Space Agency informed NASA that they won’t discuss changing the Euclid Mission until after the selection in October 2011 and they decided to rescope the LISA and IXO missions after NASA discontinued base funding for the U.S. teams beyond FY11.  As a result, NASA is currently not a partner in any international mission.  

Following a lunch break, Dr. William Brinkman, Director of the Office of Science Research Programs at DOE, gave an overview of his office’s research portfolio, and highlighted several recent policy developments.  He noted that the FY10 appropriation for Science was $4.964 B, the FY11 appropriation was $4.842 B (request was for $5.121 B), and the FY12 request is for $5.416 B.  New in FY12 is the Science for Innovation and Clean Energy program, which applies nanotechnology, biotechnology, modeling, and simulation to long-standing barriers in energy technologies.

The afternoon session continued with talks from representatives from the various DOE program managers.  Harriet Kung from DOE’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences noted contributions such as radiation-resistant materials, nano-wire batteries, droop in solid-state lighting, and light-harvesting antennas originating from the 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers launched in FY2009.   BES’ emphasis in FY12 is clean energy and innovation.  Dr. Kung also noted that BES user facilities hosted over 13,000 users in FY10 and that more than 300 companies conducted research at these facilities.

Glen Crawford, the Director of Research and Technology R&D in the DOE Office of High Energy Physics (HEP) reported that because of the continuing resolution in FY11, HEP is holding minimal reserves at this point and has a very limited ability to respond to problems or supplemental requests. The target funding for FY2012 would necessitate downsizing the workforce and rescoping the program; HEP will not be able to maintain leadership program at all 3 energy frontiers (energy, intensity, and cosmic frontiers as identified in the P5 report).

Dr. Timothy J. Hallman, Associate Director for Nuclear Physics (NP), Office of Science, DOE, discussed the status of NP and highlighted future challenges.  The FY12 budget request includes funding for FRIB and the 12-GeV upgrade at JLab’s CEBAF accelerator, as well as luminosity and detector upgrades at RHIC.  The challenges ahead for NP are to carry out the basic research program and demonstrate that it is an engine for the nation in energy, materials, and sustainability, and helps underpins our economic competiveness.  Dr. Hallman recognized that the National Academies play a unique role, and said it would be useful to have a study that documents how basic research leads to economic competiveness and innovation.

A Fusion Energy Sciences presentation was led by Ed J. Synakowski, the Director of DOE’s Office of Fusion Energy Sciences (FES).  Touching on the budgetary outlook, Dr. Synakowski noted that general plasma science funding is proposed to increase in FY12 to help capture the call made by the National Academies plasma science decadal report (PL2010), Plasma Science: Advancing Knowledge in the National Interest.  This increase will allow for preparation for new proposals in discovery science that leverage cross-agency and international partnerships. Additionally, this proposed budget will provide full funding of a Plasma Science Center that was started with Recovery Act funding. When asked about the attention to plasma science Dr. Synakowski responded that he understood PL2010 to suggest that OS should identify a home for plasma science to reside in amongst its offices and that FES is up for the challenge.


High Energy Density Physics and Related Research at NNSA was presented by Dr. Allan A. Hauer, Chief Scientist in the Stockpile Stewardship Office.  Dr. Hauer reviewed the highlights of the program and commented that the National Ignition Facility (NIF) is operational and performing a wide variety of experiments in addition to those focused on ignition.  Capabilities developed in the pursuit of ignition also have important applications in HED, dynamic materials science, and other fields. 

Closing the first day, representatives from the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of Management and Budget spoke on the general outlook for science.  The Administration’s priorities for R&D funding in FY 2012 include: clean energy, advanced manufacturing, nanotechnology, wireless communications, robotics, and climate change & sustainability.  OSTP commended the effort that went into the Astro2010 decadal survey and the Planetary decadal survey reminded the board that including cost realism and providing options for various scenarios so that the survey is robust to changes are very useful and should be adopted for all future decadals.  OMB noted that currently the astronomy budget in NSF is not well balanced between operation costs and research grants (relevant for the Astro2010 LSST recommendation).  Funding international and interagency projects and was also discussed and OSTP suggested that they would appreciate advice on planning in the international arena.

The second morning started off with a presentation of DOE on IFE with Dr. Steven Koonin, the Under Secretary for Science and Dr. David Crandall, the Advisor to the Under Secretary for Science for the DOE.  Dr. Koonin highlighted the obvious question that will come the morning after ignition: what are you doing with the energy? Is it useful or not? Both Drs. Koonin and Crandall noted that it’s not enough just to make it work, but that it must be competitive in the economy with other energy systems.  Koonin recognized that this doesn't fit naturally within the DOE, so something structurally would have to change and Dr. Crandall commented that this includes considering the appropriate boundary between government and industry and how to recognize that science in the middle.

Before the morning break Peter Graham from Stanford University discussed his and others’ efforts to detect gravity waves with atomic interferometry.  He then discussed two proposals for an Atomic Gravitational Wave Interfermoetric Sensor, one on ground and one in low Earth orbit and concluded by discussing a proposed laboratory test for general relativity to include a test of the Equivalence Principle.

The remainder of the morning was spent discussing astronomy and astrophysics.  After a review of the report of the Panel on Implementing Recommendations from New Worlds New Horizons Decadal Survey by BPA chair and panel co-chair Adam Burrows, Dr. Roger Blandford, chair of Astro2010, described the outlook for astronomy and astrophysics and a strategy for moving forward.  Dr. Blandford recognized that the federal budget outlook has complicated matters, but reminded the board that the recommendations of Astro2010 are static and science-driven and are not expected to be reactive to the budget crisis.  In discussions that followed, the question of how to move forward elicited a response from Dr. Blandford that there is a need for an NRC committee to continue with strategic guidance and that a need for morale boosting in the community.  In terms of short term need, Blandford suggested that now is the time for thinking broadly about science and that positive outcomes for science are still possible if the community can make sure to get value out of what it has.


The meeting concluded with a closed session discussion on the BPA’s strategy for stewardship the Astro2010 decadal survey, as well as closing remarks on ideas for future activities and plans for the next meeting.

The fall board meeting will take place at the Beckman Center in Irvine, CA on November 6-7, 2011.  The board will hear updates from the chairs of the standing and ad hoc committees.  The board also plans to conduct an informational session with some of the Space Studies Board (SSB) members on the evolution of U.S. astronomy and astrophysics that will include talks from legislators, agency program managers, and JWST representatives.

BPA Membership and BPA Staff 


Announcing the release of the Astro2010 Overview Booklet!

With the completion of the Astro2010 Decadal Survey report—New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics (The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2010)—the NRC will be releasing an overview booklet summarizing the recommended scientific program.  2020 Vision: An Overview of New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics is available for download.


To download or purchase copies of the full 290-page report, visit the National Academy Press online at


Status of Undergraduate Physics Education Study

The Committee on Undergraduate Physics Education Research and Implementation, chaired by Don Langenberg, is a study is designed to identify and address some of the principal challenges and opportunities facing the undergraduate physics education and education research communities. The committee will also identify how best practices for undergraduate physics education can be implemented on a widespread and sustained basis.  In preparing its report, the committee will assess the status of physics education research (PER), and will discuss how PER can assist in accomplishing the goal of improving undergraduate physics education best practices and education policy.

The committee’s first meeting was held in Washington, DC on March 18-19, 2011.  In closed session, the committee heard from Ken Heller, a member of a companion NRC study on the Status, Contributions, and Future Directions of Discipline Based Education Research, which is focused on improving education research across several discipline-based areas of study.  Dr. Heller discussed the states of that study and issues that have come up in that study that might be pertinent to the present study.  The committee also heard in closed session from NRC staffer Jay Labov on other NRC studies on education and how they might serve as sources of information and guidance for the present study.  In open session, the committee heard from representatives of the sponsoring programs at the National Science Foundation Kathleen McCloud from the Education and Interdisciplinary Research Program in the Physics Division and Duncan McBride from the Division of Undergraduate Education.  Drs. McCloud and McBride discussed with the committee the principal goals they hope to achieve through the study.  The remaining portion of the first meeting was conducted in closed session, during which the committee began working through what the committee knows and what areas it needs further input.  It also developed a timeline for producing the report, a draft outline and assigned sub-groups and writing responsibilities.  At the first meeting it was also decided because two-year colleges are an important component of the undergraduate physics education landscape, the committee membership should include someone who teaches at and is familiar with the issues associated with two-year colleges. Mary Beth Monroe, from Southwest Texas Junior College was brought on as a consultant to the committee in July and was appointed as a member on the committee several weeks later.
The committee’s second meeting was held on May 31-June 1, 2011 in Irvine, CA.  The committee heard from two speakers—Joe Wise, a high school physics teacher from the New Roads School, based in the Los Angeles, California area with more than 30 years of experience in teaching high school physics.  Mr. Wise provided his perspective on some of the current issues associated with recruiting, preparing, and supporting pre-college teachers.  The second speaker was Michael Loverude, Department of Physics, California State University at Fullerton.  Dr. Loverude spoke about an upcoming report on upper division physics education research that arose out of a workshop that took place in August 2010.  He reported that there are big gaps in research on upper level physics education, with much of the current work focusing on quantum mechanics and issues associated with mathematical concepts and their applications to physics problems. Upper division courses present an interesting segment of learning, as it is the transition point between novice and experts in the understanding of physics.  The remaining portion of the meeting was conducted in executive session, where the committee discussed further input needs, made writing assignments and began drafting material for the report.

The third meeting was held on July 25-26, 2011 in Irvine, CA and the fourth meeting was held on September 22-24, 2011 in Woods Hole, MA.  These meeting will be covered in the next edition of the BPA newsletter.  The committee expects to enter into report review in late 2011 or early 2012.

Committee on Undergraduate Physics Education Research and Implementation Membership


Update from the Committee on the Prospects for Inertial Confinement Fusion Energy Systems

The “IFE Committee” has been quite active since its kickoff meeting in mid-December 2010.  It has held three subsequent meetings and is planning its fifth to take place in late October in Washington, DC.  The January 29-31 meeting in San Ramon, CA featured talks on the various approaches to inertial fusion energy, including laser/indirect drive, laser/direct drive, KrF laser, ion beam, and pulsed power.  There was also a talk from LANL on its view of IFE development.  John Perkins from LLNL gave an overview of IFE target designs, Wayne Meier from LLNL gave an overview of IFE chamber and power plant designs, Dan Goodin from General Atomics spoke about target fabrication and injection for IFE.  Stephen Bodner then discussed his views on IFE development and the various approaches.  On the final day of the meeting the committee visited the National Ignition Facility, which featured several presentations from LLNL staff and a tour of the facility.

The March 30-April 1 meeting in Albuquerque, NM featured talks from John Lindl (LLNL) on the National Ignition Campaign (NIC), Christopher Deeney (NNSA) on the role of NIF beyond the NIC, Mike Dunne (LLNL) on the LIFE Delivery Plan, and Richard Freeman (OSU) on fast ignition for IFE.  The committee met in closed session with John Ahearne, the chair of the associated NRC Panel on the Assessment of Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) Targets.  The following day the committee heard talks from Glen Wurden (LANL) and Irv Lindemuth (U.Nev.-Reno) on magnetized target fusion, Steve Zinkle (ORNL) on chamber materials challenges for IFE, and concluded with a teleconference with Elon Musk (Space-X, Tesla Motors, Solar City) to get his perspective on engineering innovation as it might pertain to the development of inertial fusion energy.  The final day of the meeting featured a visit to Sandia National Laboratories where the  committee heard presentations from the staff and toured the Z Facility.

The most recent meeting on June 15-17 in Rochester, NY focused predominantly on gathering information on foreign ICF and IFE programs.  The committee heard from John Collier from the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council, Hiroshi Azechi from Japan’s Institute of Laser Engineering at Osaka University, and Zhang Jie, President of Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China.  The talks were very informative, and gave the committee a clear idea of what IFE development path each country (and region, in some cases) was investigating.  John Sethian (NRL) gave a summary of the Naval Research Laboratory’s High Average Power Laser program and its integrated design of a laser fusion target chamber system.  Phillip Huyck (Encite, LLC (formerly of Credit Suisse First Boston & Trust Company of the West) delivered an excellent talk on the challenges a future inertial fusion power plant might face obtaining financing.  In particular, he noted that it is important to emphasize the differences between nuclear fission and fusion, because the markets could easily conflate them.  In closed session the committee spoke with John Ahearne for an update on the panel’s activities.

The committee is preparing its interim report for review, which it plans to release in the fall.  The final report is expected in summer 2012.  

Prospects for Inertial Confinement Fusion Energy Systems Membership


Status of Nuclear Physics 2010 Study

The last of the decadal studies, on nuclear physics, is expected to be released in the winter of 2011-2012.  The committee is led by chair Stuart Freedman (University of California at Berkeley) and vice-chair Ani Aprahamian (University of Notre Dame).  The study is building upon the long range plans developed by the Nuclear Science Advisory Committee (NSAC), and among its goals the report is to broadly assess research in this field and how efforts in the United States mesh with research being conducted elsewhere.  The committee has also been tasked with addressing more general questions such as whether the present mix of facilities and research support here in the United States are appropriate, what are the scientific rationale and objectives of nuclear science and how does the field and those objectives fit in a broader national context.  As part of its efforts, the committee, led by its vice-chair, Ani Aprahamian, is working with an outside production company to develop an 8-10 minute video that highlights some of the frontier research taking place in this field and societal benefits that flow from those research efforts.

NP2010: An Assessment of and Outlook for Nuclear Physics Committee Membership


 Assessing the Impact of a U.S.-Based Deep Underground Engineering and Science Laboratory (DUSEL) on Science

Underground laboratories are a relatively new kind of research facility, developed primarily because they provide the extremely quiet environment needed to study rare events such as proton decay and the faint signals associated with neutrinos—ghostly particles with very little mass and no net charge that only weakly engage with most “normal” matter.  As weak or rare as those signals are, a recent National Research Council report conducted under the auspices of the BPA notes that their study will have profound implications.  Breakthroughs in any of the leading physics experiments that study these signals will be the foundations upon which a significant portion of the physics community builds for decades to come.

Because of the importance of these studies, a number of underground research facilities have been built around the world, including modest facilities in the United States.  Led by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and working in conjunction with the Department of Energy (DOE), the research communities that engage in underground science in the United States developed an integrated research program centered around a major underground facility to be located in South Dakota: the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL).  As part of the process of developing DUSEL and the program associated with it, NSF and DOE jointly commissioned the NRC study.  The principal charge to the committee was to independently assess the physics questions that could be addressed with the proposed program, how such a program would impact the stewardship of the research communities involved, and whether there was a need to develop such a program in the United States, given similar science programs elsewhere.  The committee also was charged with assessing the impact of this facility on research in nonphysics fields and on broader interests such as education and public outreach.

In response to this charge, the report concludes that three of the proposed physics experiments—(1) a direct detection dark matter experiment on a scale of one to tens of  tons, (2) a long-baseline neutrino oscillation experiment, and (3) a ton-scale, neutrinoless double-beta decay experiment—are of paramount and comparable scientific importance. Each of these experiments addresses at least one crucial question upon which the tenets of our understanding of the universe depend. The direct detection dark matter experiment (1) would seek to learn the nature of the mysterious dark matter that makes up approximately 80 percent of the material universe, a subject of enormous significance to astrophysics and particle physics. The long baseline neutrino oscillation experiment (2) would significantly advance the study of neutrino properties, particularly if it is coupled with a neutrino beam produced using a new high-intensity proton source at Fermilab. It would also provide increased sensitivity for the possible detection of proton decay and neutrinos from supernovas, phenomena whose observation would be momentous for science. A neutrinoless double–beta-decay experiment (3) could determine whether neutrinos are their own antiparticles, the answer to which will help us understand how the universe has evolved. Each of the three experiments is the central component of an ongoing scientific program and could result in a breakthrough discovery upon which particle physics, nuclear physics, and astrophysics will build. The report held that exceptional opportunities will result from proceeding with plans to build in the United States a world-leading long baseline neutrino experiment and developing within the United States both one direct dark matter detection experiment on the ton to multiton scale and one neutrinoless double-beta decay experiment on the ton scale, for installation at a U.S. site or if such a site is not available, at an appropriate overseas facility.  Pursuing this program would not only allow us to address scientific questions of paramount importance but would also have a significant positive impact on the stewardship of the particle and nuclear physics research communities, and would result in the United States assuming a visible leadership role in the expanding field of underground science.


The neutrino oscillation experiment (2) would be a significant improvement over existing experiments in another respect as well: its sensitivity to the detection of proton decay, another consequential physics experiment that has been proposed for DUSEL. The stability of the proton is a crucial issue that will provide a direct window onto the grand unification of forces and the origin of matter.  Nonetheless, while the added potential of the experiment would be welcome, the report concludes that the ability to search for evidence of proton decay should not be the primary factor in selecting the neutrino detector technology or in siting the experiment.

The neutrino oscillation detector (2) would also contribute to the study of supernovas, one of the most important astrophysical phenomena.  These are sufficiently rare occurrences—approximately two per century within our galaxy—that it is possible none will occur during the long lifetime of the experiment.  However, the information gained by studying such an event with the detectors under consideration for DUSEL would give us enormous insight into events that are essential in galaxy formation and into the elemental composition of solar systems such as ours.  The report concludes that the ability to study these rare events adds great value to the neutrino oscillation experiment, but should not be a significant consideration in choosing the neutrino detector technology or siting.

The committee found, moreover, that a fourth physics experiment, a nuclear astrophysics study to measure low-energy nuclear cross-sections relevant to astrophysical processes, would be scientifically important. These cross sections are quite small and efforts to measure them need the protected environment provided by underground laboratory space to filter out competing signals.  Construction of a small underground accelerator facility would enable these scientifically important measurements.

The proposed DUSEL facility would provide unique opportunities for fields outside of physics—geosciences and subsurface engineering—to explore in situ the physical and mechanical properties of rock at depths and over areas and times not currently available to them. Among the proposed experiments are regulated studies of the influence of fracture systems on rock response to applied loads and of the interdependence of the thermo-hydro-mechanical-chemical-biologic aspects of subsurface systems, and efforts to make rock more “transparent” by developing imaging techniques that would allow the exploration of subsurface material at a distance despite its visible opaqueness.  Enabling the geoscience and subsurface engineering fields to conduct such studies would be a huge step forward for these fields.  The subsurface environment would also give biology researchers an opportunity to explore life in extreme environments and to learn how biological systems manage to live in the conditions that exist deep underground. 

Co-locating the three main underground physics experiments at a single site would allow infrastructure, personnel, and expertise to be shared. Co-location would also contribute to stewardship by fostering synergy among the communities and by offering an existing infrastructure for future experiments, either extensions of the original research program or new research initiatives. By developing a facility where these experiments are co-located, the United States would be seen as a leader in the expanding field of underground science. Lastly, the existence of such a facility would allow the above-mentioned small underground accelerator facility for studying processes of nuclear astrophysics to benefit from the shared infrastructure, personnel, and expertise.

In light of the valuable experiments in subsurface engineering, the geosciences, and biosciences that could be enabled by an underground research facility, the committee also concluded that scientists in fields other than physics would significantly benefit from the development of a mechanism to allow them to conduct research at an underground physics facility in the United States.

Finally, the report assesses how access to a national facility for underground research would advance the current set of studies and also provide opportunities for future studies. The committee concludes that such a facility would be of long-term benefit to a substantial portion of the physics community and other scientific communities and that it would guarantee the United States a leadership role in the expanding global field of underground science generally and on the “intensity frontier” of the particle physics community in particular. 

Committee to Assess the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL) Membership


Standing Committee Updates

Highlights of the Spring Meeting of the Committee on Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Sciences

The Committee on Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Sciences’ spring meeting was held on April 5-6, 2011 at the Keck Center in Washington, D.C. 

The meeting began with a half-day session on one of the six compelling research opportunities discussed in the AMO2010 decadal report, Controlling the Quantum World—high intensity laser studies including initial and planned future studies at the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS).  The speakers included Lou DiMauro (Ohio State University), who discussed recent developments in and studies using attosecond lasers, Linda Young (Argonne National Laboratory), who discussed AMO-related experiments taking place at the LCLS, and Wim Leemans (LBNL/University of California at Berkeley), who spoke about efforts to develop laser plasma accelerators and some of the benefits that will flow to research from their development.  The session concluded with presentations by Farhat Beg (University of California at San Diego) on research taking place involving short pulse, high intensity laser interactions with solids, including its potential role in inertial confinement fusion, and by CAMO’s own Todd Ditmire (University of Texas at Austin) who discussed technology beyond the petawatt laser.  These presentations are available on CAMO’s website.

The meeting continued with presentations by representatives of agencies who support AMO science, with Joe Dehmer and Wendell Hill from NSF leading off, followed by Tatjana Curcic with the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Jeff Krause from DOE, and Paul Baker from the Army Research Office.  The representatives discussed their respective programs and then joined in a roundtable discussion that focused on some of the outstanding issues for the field, including how to effective support interdisciplinary work and meet equipment needs.

The committee spent much of the remaining meeting going over the status of study proposals that it is developing, and discussing ways in which it can better serve the NRC and AMO research communities, including short write-ups that summarize the focus sessions.


Committee on Atomic, Molecular and Optical Sciences Membership

Highlights of the Spring Meeting of the Plasma Science Committee

PLSC’s spring meeting was held at the Keck Center in Washington, D.C., on March 25-26, 2011.

Managers from federal programs that support plasma science research gave briefings on their portfolios and the outlook thereof.  The committee was particularly interested in discussing with the agency representatives ways to promote plasma science within the agencies and in the community.  Mark Koepke (DOE/OFES) and Allan Hauer (NNSA) spoke on behalf of PLSC sponsors, followed by talks from Joe Dehmer (NSF/PHY) and Harry Partridge from NASA’s new Office of the New Technologist who talked about how plasma science research fits into their programs.  The committee also heard two policy talks, one from Christopher King (U.S. House of Representatives) who discussed the possible impact freshman lawmakers might have on science policy, and the other from Sae Woo Nam (OSTP) who discussed OSTP’s role in setting and implementing the President’s science policy priorities. 

As part of its interests in the role of smaller facilities and plasma science education, the committee heard a talk from Mark Kushner (U. Michigan) on the U. Michigan Center for Control of Plasma Kinetics and The Michigan Institute for Plasma Science and Engineering.  This talk built on a talk by Walter Gekelman on the Large Plasma Device at UCLA in fall 2010.  Martin Greenwald (MIT), Chair of FESAC, gave a report on recent FESAC activities and a summary of the spring FESAC meeting. 

In closed session on the following day the committee heard about two ongoing NRC activities. Jerry Kulcinski (U. Wisconsin) discussed the inertial fusion energy study which he is co-chairing with Ron Davidson (Princeton), and Jim Drake (U. Maryland) reported on the Space Studies Board’s Heliophysics Decadal Survey.  Dr. Drake and the committee then discussed coordinating a white paper on laboratory astrophysics between the PLSC, the BPA, and the Committee on Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Sciences (a standing committee of the BPA).

Plasma Science Committee Membership 

Highlights of the Spring Meeting of the Condensed Matter and Materials Research Committee

CMMRC’s spring meeting was held at the Keck Center in Washington, D.C., on May 2-3, 2011.

It began with briefings on federal research programs that support work in the condensed matter and materials research fields, followed by a round table discussion to explore current issues faced in these fields, as well as possible constructive roles that CMMRC might play.  Jim Horwitz (DOE/MSE) and Ian Robertson (NSF/DMR) spoke on behalf of CMMRC sponsors, followed by presentations by Marc Ulrich (ARO) and Joan Fuller (AFOSR) who discussed the materials research programs in their respective offices. In the roundtable discussion that followed, the program managers described coordination activities engaged in by support agencies and some of the areas where CMMRC could be helpful by, for example, identifying what are the high priority topics for the communities—either new topics on the horizon or areas that are being left behind. 

The round table discussion was followed by a series of presentations on DOE’s Energy Frontiers Research Centers (EFRC) and included presentations by Altaf (Tof) Carim (DOE/OOS), Harry Atwater (Caltech), and Gary Rubloff (U. Maryland). Dr. Carim described the EFRC program including its history, objectives, and how centers are selected.  Dr. Atwater described the formation and work being done in the center that he directs, which focuses on light-material interactions for energy conversion. They have had several successes to date and have made several connections to industry including the formation of a company and work with a larger, established company to incorporate some of the research results from the center into applicable devises.  Dr. Rubloff spoke about the EFRC that he directs, which focuses on precision multifunctional nanostructures for electrical energy storage.

Condensed Matter and Materials Research Committee Membership

Highlights of the Fall Meeting of the Committee on Radio Frequencies

CORF’s spring meeting was held at the Keck Center in Washington, D.C., on May 16-17, 2011.

Mike Kosro from Oregon State University kicked off the meeting with an interesting talk on mapping ocean surface currents using land-based high frequency radars.  The technique works by using the principles of Bragg scattering, Doppler shift, and the fact that deep-water waves depends only on their wavelength.  Such measurements provide far better time-and space-resolution, improving our understanding of ocean currents.

Spectrum managers from NASA (John Zuzek), NSF (Tom Gergely and Andrew Clegg), and NOAA (David Franc), discussed domestic spectrum policy issues from the agencies’ perspective, and summarized those issues of most importance to radio astronomy and Earth remote sensing at issue at the upcoming World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC).  Scott Deutchman (OSTP) provided insight into the President’s spectrum policy goals and suggested how CORF could make scientific use of the spectrum better known.  Ron Repasi (FCC) also discussed opportunities for CORF to educate FCC staff about radio science, and summarized issues before the FCC that might be of interest to CORF.  Andrew Clegg (NSF) gave a talk on the new NSF Enhancing Access to the Radio Spectrum (EARS) program that “targets innovative and potentially transformational research that carefully considers the interplay of science, engineering, technology, applications, economics, social sciences, and public policy on spectrum efficiency and access.”

Michael Mahler, an engineer from Bosch, GmbH, gave a talk and led a discussion of his company’s development of vehicular radars operating at 76-81 GHz that monitor a car’s surrounding environment (up to ~200 m) with high spatial and angular resolution.  If a potential collision is detected, the driver would be warned.  Dr. Mahler noted that 10 companies in total are working on radars in this band, including Bosch.  CORF and Dr. Mahler then discussed possible ways to prevent interference to radio astronomy in the 76-77 GHz band.

On the second day CORF discussed how to continue stewarding Spectrum Management for Science in the 21st Century (SMS 2010), a report that considers how radio astronomy and Earth remote sensing can fit into the future of proliferating wireless device usage, and makes a compelling case for the necessity of the two science services.  The committee also discussed outreach opportunities, such as at the FCC and on the Hill, and ways to tie the messages in SMS 2010 into such efforts.  The meeting concluded with thanks to Jeff Piepmeier, the outgoing chair, who thanked the committee for its hard work over his 3-year tenure, and challenged the committee to figure out how to be more proactive in protecting radio science.  Dave DeBoer (UC-Berkeley) is the incoming CORF chair. 


Committee on Radio Frequencies Membership