by Thomas Guengerich
SOCORRO, N.M., May 23, 2008 -- New Mexico Tech will officially rename the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO)’s research center on the New Mexico Tech campus to honor retiring U.S. Senator Pete V. Domenici in a ceremony May 30.
The building that serves as the scientific, technical, and administrative center for the Very Large Array (VLA) and Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) radio telescopes will be named the "Pete V. Domenici Science Operations Center." The building previously was known simply as the "Array Operations Center."
Domenici will attend and speak at the ceremony. Other speakers will include New Mexico Tech Vice President of Research and Economic Development Van Romero, NRAO Director Fred Lo, President of Associated Universities Dr. Ethan J. Schreier and Dr. Peter Littlewood, chairman of the physics department at the University of Cambridge.
New Mexico Tech President Daniel H. López said Sen. Domenici has always been a supporter of science and research in Socorro and throughout the state.
"He's been a statesman for New Mexico, the nation – and without exaggeration – for the world," López said. "Anyone with that track record deserves this recognition."
Van Romero has served as the university's main lobbyist in Washington, D.C., for more than a decade. He said Sen. Domenici has always been receptive to new ideas and willing to take risks.
"Over the years, Sen. Domenici has always had time to listen to our needs and goals," Romero said. "He has served as a champion of New Mexico Tech's causes and we owe him a debt of gratitude for all his efforts over the decades."
Dr. Fred Lo, NRAO Director, said Sen. Domenici is deserving of recognition for his distinguished career as a statesman and supporter of science and research.
"The new name recognizes the strong and effective support for science that has been a hallmark of Senator Domenici's long career in public service," said Dr. Fred Lo, NRAO Director.
Originally dedicated in 1988, the center houses offices and laboratories that support VLA and VLBA operations. The center also supports work on the VLA modernization project and on the international Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) project.
Work on ALMA at the Socorro center and at the ALMA Test Facility at the VLA site west of Socorro has focused on developing and testing equipment to be deployed at the ALMA site in Chile's Atacama Desert. The research facility, part of the National Science Foundation-funded NRAO, was located on the Tech campus through a joint Federal-State effort spearheaded by Domenici.
"Senator Domenici has worked hard over the years to support research both at New Mexico Tech and at the NRAO, and our facility on the New Mexico Tech campus is a symbol of that support. It's highly appropriate to name it after him," said Dr. Ethan Schreier, President of Associated Universities Inc., which operates the NRAO for the National Science Foundation.
Sen. Domenici helped make New Mexico Tech's Magdalena Ridge Observatory one of the world's most technologically-advanced optical observatories. The VLA is the most scientifically-productive ground-based telescope in the history of astronomy.
"Both these facilities will advance the frontiers of 21st century astrophysics, and keep our state and its research community in the forefront of science worldwide," said Dr. Robert Dickman, NRAO's Director for New Mexico Operations.
Her Majesty’s Consul, Kevin Lynch and Science Consul, Dr. May Akrawi, will be in New Mexico to honor Domenici’s commitment to UK/US scientific collaboration, along with Littlewood and Dr. Dave Buscher from the University of Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory.
"On behalf of the British Government and our science community, we would like to thank Senator Domenici for all his support for this historic scientific project. With his help and support for the Magdalena Ridge Observatory, US and UK scientists will be able to continue in the footsteps of their predecessors in transatlantic collaboration and together make discoveries to benefit mankind," said Her Majesty's Consul General, Paul Lynch.
New Mexico Tech has received $53 million from the U.S. Congress for construction and implementation of the program and has requested another $15 million.
“If it weren’t for Sen. Domenici’s ability to secure major funding, we would not have had this opportunity to join this extraordinary partnership with Cambridge,” Tech President López said. “Sen. Domenici was the spearhead and the lightning rod to help form this partnership.”
Domenici also was instrumental in bringing the International Law Enforcement Academy – another New Mexico Tech division – to Roswell.
During the Reagan Administration, Domenici sponsored the legislation that allowed the university to use the "M" Mountain range for research and testing.
López said the U.S. Department of the Interior would not let the university conduct testing on the range. A high level bureaucrat told Laurence Lattman, then the president of Tech, that it "would take an act of Congress" for Tech to have unlimited access to the land.
Domenici sponsored the legislation -- signed by Reagan -- that gave Tech access to the land.
Over the years, Domenici's support has helped Tech launch the homeland security training program in Playas, the EarthScope research and other anti-terrorism training programs.
"All these projects benefit New Mexico Tech," López said. "But these programs also benefit the nation. Senator Domenici has always been careful to make sure that federal money went to programs that benefit the entire nation."
The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.
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