Starting in 2014, the duo spearheaded the effort to rebuild the connection between the three national labs affiliated with the University of California and the academic research and education at the sites.
Lab, federal and UC officials celebrated the rededication of the University of California Livermore Collaboration Center on Monday. The refurbished three-building complex sits outside the Greenville Avenue security gate to the sprawling lab site and originally was known as Hertz Hall. It housed the University of California Davis’ program for applied science degrees, a program that Budil graduated from after joining the lab with an undergraduate degree about 35 years ago. That program developed through a friendship between lab director and icon Edward Teller and philanthropist John Hertz. Hertz bought into Teller’s vision for an educational partnership on site and gave $500,000 to get it started in the early 1970s. In today’s dollars, that’s a gift of more than $10 million.
Budil, in her role as vice president for national laboratories in the UC President’s Office, started working with Yu on reconnecting the academic prowess of the university system with the national labs. She said it seemed like almost an impossible dream.
For Budil, bringing the entire breadth of the UC system into the collaborator, matches what’s demanded in the research world today. It’s all about collaboration and collaboration across disciplines and organizations. She sees expanded opportunities for lab researchers to both develop curriculum and teach classes, while other employees can plug into graduate programs in a range of disciplines tapping the UC system resources.
Budil cited lab founder E.O. Lawrence’s belief that collaboration across disciplines made big science so much better than any single researcher could pursue on their own. She saw that same opportunity coming out of the collaboration center.
When she and Yu started down the journey, the bureaucratic hurdles were daunting. The ground lease with UC Davis was executed when the Atomic Energy Commission (the predecessor agency to the Dept. of Energy) owned the lab. The new lease had to be written with the National Nuclear Security Agency, the current overseer of the lab’s work. In his earlier comments, Craig Leasure, now the vp for labs, thanked many people and agencies, speaking to just how complicated this was to get done.
It fits nicely with the lab’s and Sandia’s outreach to industry through the Open Campus that celebrated its 10th anniversary. Just what collaboration will look like moving forward is an open question, but Budil was optimistic about the opportunities given that the non-classified status makes conversations much easier.
The refurbished facilities are equipped with state-of-the-art audio-video equipment that has the capability to link hundreds, if not thousands, of people together from sites around the planet. It has the feel of a comfortable campus with a nice courtyard in Hertz Hall next to the Edward Teller Education Center.
Time will tell just what will develop, but the center provides the facilities and the opportunities to build and enhance collaborations across the state and beyond.