While the competition for management of the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) continues, the University of California has co-founded a new institute with the lab, focusing on materials research and nanotechnology.

The new Institute for Multiscale Materials Studies (IMMS) will feature courses taught by UCSB faculty and LANL staff on the UCSB campus, said College of Engineering Dean Matthew Tirrell. The courses emphasize graduate student research through the Chemical Engineering, Materials, Mechanical Engineering and Computer Sciences Depts. The institute focuses particularly on soft materials made from polymers or other organic materials, Tirrell said.

IMMS Co-director David Clarke, a professor of materials and mechanical and environmental engineering, said IMMS is a testament to the University’s research achievements.

“Ours is an institute focused on materials, and the decision to have it here reflects the very high regard that our campus is established internationally for innovative research in the area of materials,” Clarke said.

The IMMS will also allow Los Alamos faculty to take classes and obtain degrees from UCSB, Clarke said.

“UC and Los Alamos have recognized for several years that it is in the best interest of Los Alamos and the nation that they have opportunities to help train the very best students in the country,” Clarke said. “These needs, as well as the opportunity for Los Alamos staff to have the chance of continued education, are of much longer-term than the decision that is made every five or 10 years as to which organization manages Los Alamos.”

Clarke said the classes would be taught both in person and through the use of a computerized Access Grid, which will connect the lab to the campus through the Internet.

“The institute is one mechanism for strengthening [LANL’s] connection to the UC system and our students, whilst also giving more of our students the opportunity to spend part of their degree programs using the outstanding facilities at Los Alamos,” Clarke said.

Assistant Vice Chancellor for UCSB Public Affairs Paul Desruisseaux said although the Los Alamos lab does conduct research regarding nuclear technology, the institute would not deal with any classified information.

“There is not going to be any classified research for this program,” he said. “It will be held in another facility in proximity to Los Alamos. Students will not need security clearance.”

Tirrell said the founding of the institute has no bearing on contract negotiations concerning the management of LANL because IMMS’s main focus is on research and education. Currently, the University is competing with the University of Texas and private defense contractor Lockheed Martin for management of LANL.

Tirrell said discussions about starting IMMS began in early 2005. The institute will be funded by LANL through the Dept. of Energy, Tirrell said.

Clarke said institutes in other subjects are being established at other UC campuses, including UC Davis and UC San Diego. The classes will be held on campus and will begin in the winter, he said, but no new building plans are in the works for the institute.