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Monday, August 22, 2005

Governor Sees 'Absolutely Incredible Things' on First Lab Visit

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger took time out from dealing with the state’s challenges last Friday to take in a little science. Making his first appearance on Berkeley Lab soil, he was escorted through the Lab’s Advanced Light Source, after which he beamed at a press conference that he enjoyed a “terrific tour,” and that it was “absolutely incredible the things that are going on here.” His host for the one-hour visit, Lab Director Steve Chu, showed the Governor a pair of beamlines and, from high atop the accelerator ring, the massive dome structure that housed Ernest Lawrence’s historic 184-inch cyclotron.

Schwarzenegger was positively effusive when he emerged to the north parking lot for a press conference before six television cameras, a phalanx of print and radio reporters, and a couple of hundred curious lab employees, many of them with cameras. “There is incredible brain power in the UC system and the national laboratories,” he told them, adding that, in particular, the Laboratory’s record of Nobel Prizes and scientific breakthroughs represented “a great brain gain for our state.”

With both University of California President Robert Dynes and UC Berkeley Chancellor Bob Birgeneau looking on, the Governor presented evidence of the university’s vast contributions to the state economy, including more than 100 spinoff businesses and thousands of jobs that have emanated directly from UC and lab research.

While acknowledging his pleasure that Berkeley Lab’s management contract with UC was renewed in April, he added strong support for UC’s continued management of both Livermore and Los Alamos national labs. “It is absolutely important for our state to have these contracts back, and I urge the Department of Energy” to select UC in the competition for both labs, he told the press.

In his opening remarks, Chu thanked Schwarzenegger for showing support for Lab, reminding the press that “we bring to California a half a billion dollars in federal support, and provide training for the next generation of scientists as well as the tools and research that lead to discoveries, new industries, and economic wealth in the state.”

President Dynes, who the Governor called “an incredible partner, a great friend, and a great believer in California,” emphasized the importance of higher education and scientific research to the state of California. The University and the state, he said, are “inextricably entwined,” and the lab-campus partnership “a combination unmatched in the world.” He called the national laboratories magnets for intellectual brainpower and praised the “phenomenal work” emerging from Berkeley Lab. “This Laboratory is creating the future,” he said.

The Governor, speaking above a podium sign that featured the Berkeley Lab logo and the words “California Research for a Strong Economy,” answered three questions from the press, all of them related to this fall’s anticipated ballot initiative on redistricting.

On the ALS tour, Chu introduced the Governor to life scientist Paul Adams and his work on the protein crystallography beamline. Also joining the group was Mike Varney, vice president of Genentech and member of an industry consortium that uses the beamline for its research. The Governor was shown a robot in action, loading crystals onto the beamline, while cameras clicked and videos whirred from the official press pool.

Then it was on to the accelerator roof, where the principals spent some time recalling the early days of the laboratory and Lawrence’s construction of this historic temple of high-energy physics. Down the other side, the group met up with Associate Laboratory Director Paul Alivisatos and materials scientist Calvin Chow (Chief Executive Officer of Nanosys), who explained the wonders of high-resolution spectroscopy, especially as it related to nanoscience.

The Governor even brought a little Hollywood to the event. He told the press conference he hadn’t been to Berkeley since filming the movie “Junior” with Danny DeVito. And UC’s Los Alamos relationship reminded him of his time there filming the movie “Twins.”

And then there was Steve Chu. As he introduced the Governor, he invited him to return this winter and help the Laboratory celebrate the grand opening of the Molecular Foundry. “I even scripted something for him to say,” the Director added: “’I’ll be Back’”.


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