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A Note from Our Guest Editor

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A Note from Our Guest Editor

Andrew Stephenson.

17 October 2018

 

Our returning guest editor is Andrew Stephenson, Distinguished Professor of Biology and associate dean for research and innovation in the Eberly College of Science. Stephenson supervises the college’s research administration office and oversees the Office for Innovation, which assists our faculty inventors in capturing intellectual property (IP), provides academic resources and support to our scientist-entrepreneurs, and connects our academic researchers with industrial networks to maximize the societal impact of our college’s most innovative research.

Just before noon on Saturday, March 24, I exited the Millennium Science Complex (MSC) after an all- morning meeting. Near Thomas Building, I stepped gingerly onto the soggy grass to avoid a backward- walking campus tour docent who was talking to 20 or so prospective students and their parents. One of the parents pointed to the MSC and asked "What goes on in that building?" The tour guide responded "That’s the Millennium Science Building. Students don’t go into that building; its only for faculty and research!" Well, I found that comment to be more than a tad annoying because it just wasn’t true.

Prior to exiting the MSC, just moments earlier, I had overheard three students in the lobby discussing whether they should "sign up now for time on the machine next Saturday." I guessed that the trio consisted of a grad student and two undergrads (grad students dress like undergrads but their clothes are three years more ragged), but I had no idea which instrument they were using. As I left the building, two more students entered and I thought “This is a busy place for a Saturday morning!”

Consequently, I spoke up and told the tour group that it is true that the MSC does not have classrooms for formal lectures, but that it couldn’t be farther from the truth to say that students don’t use that building. I pointed to the life sciences wing of the building and said "If your daughter or son is interested in a life science or medicine or agriculture, there is a very good chance that they will use the state-of-the-art instrumentation and advanced cyberinfrastructure in that wing of the building."

"And like those students," I said as I pointed to the trio of students now leaving the building, "they will become so excited about their research that they give up their Saturday mornings to have even more access to the instrumentation."

I then pointed to the other wing of the building and said "If your child is interested in chemistry, physics, astronomy, engineering, or materials science, they could be involved in research that uses the world-class nanofabrication facility or the state- of-the-art materials-characterization instruments housed in that wing of the MSC."

Immediately after this unsolicited outburst, I felt a bit sheepish and encouraged the group to proceed.

Over the next few days, however, I began to think about the central role that instrumentation plays in the research, education, and public outreach missions of the Eberly College of Science. Of course, no two feature stories could even begin to tell this tale. It would require a major tome to describe the research, education, and outreach enabled by the advanced cyberinfrastructure alone, but we wanted to provide some insight into the vital roles of research instrumentation. The two examples of state-of-the-art instruments featured in this issue of the Science Journal are meant to illustrate Penn State’s commitment to provide the world’s best scienti c instruments to the world’s best scientists. Penn State’s Eberly College of Science does attract world-leading scientists, and part of the reason why is due to our facilities and the instruments we have in them. I hope the following stories shed light on just of few examples of how this works at Penn State.