Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Another Casualty of the Minneapolis Bridge Collapse

The Center for Interdisciplinary Applications in Magnetic Resonance

A friend pointed this out. From today's Daily:

Tucked into the bluffs alongside the Mississippi River - 50 feet from where the Interstate 35W bridge fell - the researchers at the University's Center for Interdisciplinary Applications in Magnetic Resonance have seen a stark change since the collapse.

CIA-MR has three magnets on site, used for various research projects. A magnet used to simulate different gravity levels is among those at the lab.

There are only three such magnets in the world. The other two are in France and Japan, Hammer said.

Concerns about the future of research are rooted in problems stemming from ground vibrations from the demolition of the remaining bridge structure and construction of the new one, Hammer said.

According to Hammer, the magnet capable of simulating zero gravity presents the greatest level of risk as it is made of a more brittle material than the others.

Each magnet costs $400,000 and there is between $1.5 million and $2 million of equipment in the lab, Hammer said.

While construction of the new bridge will not require the space currently occupied by the lab, the Minnesota Department of Transportation said research will not be able to continue while bridge construction is in progress, University Real Estate Office director Sue Weinberg said.

Moving the lab, if necessary, presents another list of problems, Hammer said. It takes researchers two or three weeks to shut down the magnets and another two to three months to get them back in working order.

Hammer estimated moving the lab would cost $200,000.

Lorelee Wederstrom, director of the office of facilities with the Academic Health Center, said there is currently no vacant space for Hammer's lab through the AHC.

Wederstrom said since research will seemingly be able to continue during demolition, the University has time to find a space to move the lab. Whether the University will build a new lab or try to find an existing structure to house the magnets is still being discussed.

Ray Voelker, director at the Office of Space Management, said the University is "looking at some interim steps, and it's not clear to me whether he'll be able to go back there or not."

"They'd have a very difficult time putting us into an existing building where there's offices close by," he said. "If someone is walking with a pacemaker you don't want that to be affected."

While no single portion of research at the University will hinder the University's strategic positioning plan, Hammer said, a stall in operations at the lab could ultimately be detrimental to that goal.

Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL- Minneapolis, said accommodating Hammer and other researchers at the lab should be a major concern of the University.

"I don't think this is an idle threat. If (Hammer) can't do his research for several years, there's no way he would consider staying here," Kahn said. "I think the University should treat this as seriously as it would (the) loss of a top football coach or football player. I would treat it more seriously."

Clearly if BigU took Rep. Kahn's advice, finding space or money would be no problem. In round numbers five million dollars were spent recently on the football/basketball coaching situation. Dr. Kahn, who represents the university district in the state legislature and has worked at BigU, is probably aware of the unlikelihood of BigU equating the importance of the magnet lab's problems with problems in the football program.

Like a moth to a streetlight, Mr. Bonzo cannot resist.

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