Granholm cuts ribbon on Michigan State University's Facility for Rare Isotope Beams

Andrew Roth

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MSU President Samuel Stanley and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm cut the ribbon on the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams on May 2, 2022.Andrew Roth

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm returned to Michigan to cut the ribbon on Michigan State University's Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, or FRIB, on May 2.

Granholm was governor of Michigan when the Department of Energy selected MSU to host the FRIB in 2008. More than 13 years later, she leads the department as the facility opens.

"There's a proverb that says sometimes leadership is planting trees under whose shade you will never sit," Granholm said. "And what a privilege for me to be able to come back at this moment, to be able to sit under the tree that you all have been watering and nurturing."

The FRIB houses the world's most powerful heavy-ion accelerator, propelling atomic nuclei to half the speed of light. That allows researchers to access more than 1,000 new rare isotopes, many of which have never before been produced on Earth.

Research at the facility begins this month after the facility became officially certified by the U.S. Department of Energy as an Energy Office of Science user facility, making it one of 28 Office of Science user facilities.

The FRIB will support a community of more than 1,600 scientists from around the world who will use the facility, representing more than 100 universities in the United States and 250 institutions from 50 countries internationally. Discoveries could include everything from the origins of stars, to cures for cancer, to how to destroy nuclear waste.

“FRIB will be the core piece of our nation’s research infrastructure, and today we cut the ribbon to begin our mission of enabling scientific discovery,” FRIB lab director Thomas Glasmacher said.

Granholm was joined by a number of other officials, including Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, U.S. Reps. Elissa Slotkin, Brenda Lawrence and Tim Walberg, and MSU President Samuel Stanley.

The FRIB was constructed on time and under budget at about $730 million, which was funded by Michigan State University and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Glasmacher said the FRIB will continue to receive about $100 million in merit-based federal funds annually, with officials submitting proposals for the funding every five years.

The facility is estimated to have a $4 billion impact on Michigan’s economy, Whitmer said, serving as a magnet for talent from across the world.

"Over a decade ago, the Department of Energy, MSU and the state came together to make a bet on Michigan," Whitmer said. "The bet has paid off. Thanks to the 1,500 construction workers and thousands of public officials, university staff, state employees who spent countless hours to make sure we got this done ahead of schedule and on budget ... soon hundreds of scientists and support staff will call the FRIB and Michigan home."

Granholm noted that Michigan State University already has the top nuclear physics graduate program in the nation, “and now they have access to the tools to be able to do research that many of them are craving and that will lead to future not just employment, but future discoveries.”

Stabenow agreed, arguing that “this is the place to be, for students. There will be no better opportunities to make a difference, not only to learn, but to have a profound impact.”

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Andrew Roth is a freelance reporter and photojournalist in Michigan covering politics, technology, culture and their intersection. Andrew has had bylines in news outlets like the Detroit News, Michigan Advance and Flint Beat. He was named one of the best political reporters in Michigan by the Washington Post and his work has been cited by outlets like Bloomberg, Endgadget, Daily Kos and others. You can follow him on Twitter at @RothTheReporter and @RothsReviews, and on Instagram at @RothTheReporter.

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