Arrow-right Camera


Science lab now 6, and growing

Sat., March 27, 2010

More staff, initiatives for physics enterprise

Spokane’s Applied Sciences Laboratory, a research center that is tackling high-level problems in physics, has reached the six-year mark.

The lab’s director, Washington State University professor Yogi Gupta, told a group of Spokane backers this week that ASL should be considered from a parent’s point of view. Like a 6-year-old child, ASL is growing fast and is looking for ways to make its mark on the world, he said.

Started in 2004 as an offshoot of Gupta’s Pullman-based Institute for Shock Physics, the ASL has just finished its biggest year of growth, he said.

In the past 12 months the lab has added three initiatives and hired two senior researchers and six postdoctoral associates.

The ASL primarily relies on federal grants related to projects paid for by the Department of Defense for its funding, although it also gets support from the state and local groups.

The two new senior researchers joining the ASL are Yuanbing Mao and Karl Tillman.

Tillman is helping develop the ASL’s Ultrafast Optics Lab; Mao is helping start the Nanostructured Materials Lab.

The third new ASL research initiative is the installation of a scanning electron microscope in leased space in the Sirti Technology Center. The microscope produces electrons that send back information about a sample’s surface composition, electrical conductivity and other qualities.

Hergen Eilers, the first research scientist hired at the lab, reviewed three projects he leads for the ASL, all of them funded by the Defense Department: developing a laser-assisted method of detecting buried improvised explosive devices (IEDs); developing a better method of identifying nuclear material moving through transportation checkpoints; and devising a better system to neutralize biological threats.

Gupta told the group that getting the ASL off the ground has been “the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

He elaborated, saying starting a research organization in Spokane has been complex and demanding.

“It requires significant resources, hard work, perseverance and time, since there is not a prior history of physical science research in Spokane,” Gupta said.

“The ASL is the first-of-its-kind research organization in Spokane.”

Click here to comment on this story »