March 28, 2002

MIT Given ISN Research Center

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Administrators at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced earlier this month that the University will house the U.S. Army’s Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN), a University-affiliated research center conceived to uniform and protect the soldier of the future. The statement came more than a month after Cornell was formally eliminated from the pool of applicants, which included about 30 universities from across the country.

At a press conference on March 13, MIT officials unveiled the five-year, $50 million contract, which will involve 35 MIT professors from nine departments in the schools of engineering, science and architecture and planning, according to the MIT News Office. Using MIT’s facilities, researchers will develop state-of-the-art uniforms designed to enhance soldier survivability and protection in future wars.

In a statement released by the MIT News Office, administrators celebrated the acquisition of the ISN as an important milestone in University history.

“Now yet again the U.S. faces threats that challenge our country to capitalize on the enabling power of novel technologies,” said Prof. Ned Thomas, MIT’s Morris Cohen professor of materials science and engineering, who will serve as the ISN director.

“The ISN really embodies a great opportunity to create these new technologies to protect our soldiers,” he added.

MIT’s selection represents the culmination of a rigorous, open competition among colleges vying for the ISN contract since October. Cornell’s bid, which was denied Jan. 29, proposed utilizing the area currently occupied by the Ward Center for Nuclear Sciences to host the ISN. Although future plans for the Ward site remain unclear, the decommissioning of the Center’s TRIGA nuclear fission reactor is scheduled to commence on June 30, 2002.

The submission of Cornell’s formal proposal to the Army Research Office in December fueled speculation among lab officials that the decision to decommission the reactor, which was approved unanimously last summer by the Board of Trustees, was induced by the University’s desire to replace the Ward Center with the ISN.

Captain Amy Hannah, an Army spokesperson, said Tuesday from the Pentagon that the Army is excited about the selection of MIT and is looking forward to working with the University. Although she declined to discuss the specifics of the selection process, Hannah said that MIT was chosen on the basis of technical merit and management structure.

“MIT presented the strongest overall program and made the most compelling case,” Hannah said.

While all information concerning selection procedures, including the precise number of universities that applied for the grant, remains classified, it has been widely speculated that the finalists for the contract, along with MIT, were Northwestern University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy.

According to Hector Abru