The University Record, September 24, 1997

Neal to head Michigan ATLAS Project

 

Neal


Homer A. Neal, interim president July 1, 1996-Jan. 31, 1997, and vice president for research since 1993, will return to teaching and research as professor of physics and director of the new Michigan

ATLAS Project. He also will serve as an adviser to the president and provost on national issues.

Neal's appointment and new title interim president emeritus and vice president emeritus for research were approved by the Regents at their September meeting, effective Sept. 1.

In recommending the change in title and appointment, President Lee C. Bollinger expressed appreciation for the strong leadership Neal provided during his interim presidency and as vice president for research.

"Dr. Neal identified and vigorously pursued a number of initiatives, among them an effort to redefine the nation's government-university research partnership. He initiated reorganization of the Medical Center and launched an effort to expand opportunities for undergraduate students to work with faculty on research and other creative endeavors," Bollinger noted.

The U-M's research expenditures increased from $386 million in FY 1994 to $441 million in FY 1996 and topped $450 million in FY 1997. Under his leadership, the Office of the Vice President for Research launched the Wiesner Symposium and developed a strategic fund to establish several incubator research units, including the Program for the Study of Complex Systems, the Cognitive Neuroscience Program and the Biomolecular Recognition Program.

As director of the Michigan ATLAS Project, Neal will coordinate the University's involvement in the upcoming ATLAS Experiment to be conducted at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the planned super collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland.

The LHC is an accelerator that will bring protons into head-on collision at higher energies (14 TeV) than achieved previously to allow scientists to penetrate farther into the structure of matter and re-create the conditions prevailing in the universe 10-12 seconds after the "Big Bang" when the temperature was 1,016 degrees.

"Involving 2,000 physicists and costing several billion dollars, the ATLAS Experiment will address some of the major problems facing physical scientists," says Neal, who has remained active in research throughout his tenure in administration. His research group played a key role in the successful search for the top quark, a subatomic particle and one of the basic building blocks of the universe.

In addition to involving several U-M physics faculty who will focus on the actual experiment, Neal says, the broader Michigan project will involve undergraduate student researchers, as well as faculty from several other disciplines investigating related questions that a collaborative experiment of such magnitude and complexity raise.

Neal says the ATLAS Experiment will accumulate data at a rate never before encountered and will pose challenges in high performance computing, and in the use of high technology in facilitating large-scale international scientific collaborations among scientists from around the world an area of particular interest to faculty in the School of Information. As director of the Michigan project, Neal will be responsible for fostering and coordinating this diversity of research efforts across campus.

Other major U.S. institutions participating in the ATLAS Experiment include Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, Berkeley.

Neal, a graduate of Indiana University and the U-M, joined the University in 1987 as chair of the Department of Physics. He was vice president for academic affairs and provost at the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1981-86 and was dean for research and graduate development at Indiana University in 1976-81.

Neal is a fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, Ford Motor Co. and the Ogden Corp.