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October 10, 2006

Argonne marks 60 years at open house

[img id="80077" align="alignleft"] Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago celebrated 60 years of advanced physics research with a one-day open house Saturday, featuring behind-the-scenes tours into laboratories and exhibitions on topics such as cancer diagnosis and microscopic imaging.

The open house marked the beginning of a new chapter in the University’s relationship with Argonne. Originally known as Manhattan Engineering District’s Metallurgical Laboratory and used secretly as a facility for the Manhattan Project during World War II, the lab has been managed and run by the University since its official founding in 1946 through a series of five-year contracts with the Department of Energy (DOE).

Until last year, these contracts have been renewed without any competitive bidding process. Having defeated the nonprofit development company Battelle for management, the University of Chicago will now run the lab through a separate legal entity, UChicago Argonne LLC. Northwestern University and the University of Illinois will also share in the management rights of the lab.

This weekend’s open house offered visitors a rare look at the mechanics behind the lab’s various projects.

Jake Socha, a biomechanical physicist, works at Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source (APS), which is used to concentrate high amounts of photons into extremely small areas.

Socha explained to visitors in an observation room looking down on the APS how the high-brilliance X-rays produced there could illustrate intricate biological processes.

“I study the mechanics of insect respiration,” he said. “If someone wants to know how mosquitoes breathe, that helps my work, whether they’re a university or just some firm developing a new way of killing them.”

Instrument scientists at Argonne often spend their entire careers working with the same device, gaining a high level of expertise.

“If you look at the group of people we had 25 years ago, at least half of them are still here,” said Bill Sullivan, an instrument scientist in the control room of the Intense Pulsed Neutron Source lab, commissioned in 1981.

The event was also supported by the DOE, the University of Illinois, and Northwestern University.