Sunday, May 15, 2005

A Challenge for a Sunday Afternoon

Until now posters to this blog have talked about what has been wrong with the Lab and especially with their perception of the inadequacies of Lab management. There has been much talk about excessive paperwork that gags scientific research. I would like to start a discussion, public or private, of another kind.

When I came to the Lab in 1989, the Lab was touted as a place where large scale, multidisciplinary, high risk science could be accomplished. I was told that LANL was unique in its ability to do this kind of science.

So, I propose that we restart discussions about which large scale, multidisciplinary, high risk projects could be accomplished at LANL, where the money comes from to accomplish them, and which of these projects might attract the next generation of world beating scientists to LANL.

Here are three titles of difficult but plausible projects which would require lab wide collaboration. As far as I can tell, these projects would generate many papers; would solve longstanding, basic research questions; and would strongly advance programmatic goals. There are already descriptions of these particular projects with specific goals and milestones.

  1. Doc in a Box – a set of sensors and software to perform rapid, thorough, non invasive medical diagnosis.
  2. How does a liver know to be the shape of a liver? – software and experiments that couple the breadth of Lab science to allow prediction of organ shape from DNA sequences.
  3. Biology based improvements to high speed computation – hardware and software that improve computation speed 100 fold and that automatically improves itself.

The titles above hint at extensive pragmatic projects that could only be done here and that spin out programmatic, scientific, and intellectual property benefits. Each project can be thought of as a set of coordinated individual investigator projects that generate a team focused on a larger goal. The scientific talent for these projects is already at the Lab but is spread across ten or more Laboratory divisions.

I do not claim that the three projects listed above are a best choice among ambitious projects for the Lab or that they are even a good choice. I only claim that we can and should accomplish projects of this magnitude

Do any readers of this blog agree? If so, I would like to hear from them.

For myself, I would be happy to be a member of a team that strives and accomplishes ambitious scientific goals. I would recruit young scientists to such team. By design, these young scientists would also work on various programmatic needs of the Lab’s sponsors. The projects listed above have been picked with those needs in mind.

I think that getting such projects done here (and beating the rest of the world while doing it) is feasible. Yes, I know it would be hard and would require some changes at the Lab. Nevertheless, I would like to talk with others who have similar ambitions.



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