Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Friday, January 20, 2012

Energy Institute name change embraces Michigan Memorial Phoenix Project legacy

The Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute (MMPEI) will change its name to the U-M Energy Institute, effective Feb. 1.

The name change will clarify the institute's identity as an interdisciplinary research unit of the Office of the Vice President of Research that draws on expertise from across the university to develop, coordinate, and promote energy research and education.

At the same time, the institute will take steps to ensure the enduring legacy of the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Project (MMPP) by reinvigorating it and highlighting its ongoing activities as a distinct unit within the institute.

The Phoenix Project was launched in 1948 to engage in research and other activities that support the peaceful uses of atomic energy. By pursuing the constructive potential of a technology that showed such extraordinary destructive power at the close of World War II, these focused activities were meant to serve as a "living memorial" for the members of the U-M community who gave their lives during the war.

"The Michigan Memorial Phoenix Project is a unique aspect of U-M's history, and a point of pride for us all," says Vice President for Research Stephen Forrest. "By breathing new life into the project, we will reaffirm our commitment to its original intent, and ensure its legacy for the future."

The Phoenix Project also was the university's first fundraising campaign. The novel approach to honoring those who died in he war proved to have broad appeal among alumni and friends, and the campaign raised $7.3 million by the time it concluded in 1953.

In addition to supporting the construction and use of the Ford Nuclear Reactor, now decommissioned, the Phoenix Project has helped fund studies on the applications of nuclear technology in such fields as medicine, chemistry, physics, mineralogy, archeology, engineering and law.

Building on the MMPP legacy, the Energy Institute was established under its current name six years ago. The institute's new name will better reflect its engagement of expertise from across campus in science, technology, policy, economics, business, and social sciences to develop, coordinate, and promote research and education on all forms of energy.

Specific areas of interest include: carbon neutral electricity sources, energy storage and utilization, transportation and fuels, and societal impact.

The MMPP legacy also will endure as the name of the renovated and expanded new home of the institute — the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Laboratory on North Campus. Inside, the building will feature a prominent display area focusing on MMPP's unique history. The institute will relocate to the building in 2013 from its temporary administrative offices in the North Campus Research Complex.