Funding plan secured in record amount for Laser Lab

Funding plan secured in record amount for Laser Lab

Funding for the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics has been agreed upon in a record amount for five years, according to Sen. Charles E. Schumer.

Schumer on Friday shared an announcement of the Laser Lab’s $409.9 million “Cooperative Work Agreement” with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. The last five-year agreement had expired in 2018.

“This agreement will enable the world-class lab to continue making vital contributions to national security and providing invaluable sources of scientific education and leadership that ultimately support DOE’s mission,” Schumer said.

Michael Campbell, director of the lab, said the plan to provide record amounts of funding reflects the quality of the work, students and research at the lab. He credited Schumer, along with support from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Rep. Joseph Morelle, with securing the agreement.

“We call him “Prophet Chuck,” Campbell said. Schumer met with NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty in 2018 to help combat cuts in the lab’s budget proposed by the Trump administration.  His talks were key in turning around funding so it would increase then and in the current year. Gordon-Hagerty last visited the lab in August, accompanied by Morelle.

Schumer said,  “I pushed for this new Cooperative Agreement to keep the lab up and running every chance I got because not only does the lab play a paramount role in our national security, but is also vital to our regional economy, employing hundreds of scientists and bringing millions of dollars into the region.”

Since 2015, the lab is estimated to have brought $16 million in business to 50 New York companies, including some in Rochester.

The lab employs about 300 scientists locally and receives visits from approximately 400 researchers each year. One of its primary jobs is working on creating energy through fusion and conducting physics research. Its experiments also help test theories for nuclear arms, providing the only way to gain such information since the banning of underground nuclear testing, Schumer noted.

“A lot of things we do start out with a defense application,” Campbell said, citing the science behind automotive GPS systems.

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