University of Chicago Receives $5 Million Gift for Particle Physics Programs

The University of Chicago has announced a $5 million gift from an anonymous donor to develop programs in particle physics through the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab).

The gift will enable Fermilab scientists, working with university partners, to develop a world-class national program for the study of neutrinos and rare particle processes. The nation's only laboratory fully devoted to the field of particle physics, Fermilab is operated under contract for the U.S. Department of Energy by the Fermi Research Alliance, an LLC that includes the University of Chicago and Universities Research Association — a consortium of ninety research universities.

With the gift, officials at the cash-strapped lab will be able to stop a rolling furlough program that since February has forced employees to take periodic unpaid leave and slashed their pay by 12.5 percent, ScienceNOW reports. The lab's budget for 2008 had been slashed by $22 million, which left officials facing staff cuts of nearly two hundred employees. While the lab still expects to lay off a hundred and forty workers, the cuts will be restructured to give employees a chance to take voluntary layoffs before involuntary cuts are initiated.

The news has bolstered morale among employees. "This [gift] will be an enormous boost to the future of the laboratory," said Pier Oddone, director of Fermilab and president of the Fermi Research Alliance. "The faith in us, in our great institution, and in the value of the work we do to tackle the deepest mysteries of nature will be a source of inspiration for us at Fermilab for many years to come."

"Particle Physics Receives Boost From $5 Million Gift to University of Chicago." University of Chicago Press Release 05/27/2008. Adrian Cho. "Private Donor Gives Fermilab $5 Million." ScienceNOW 05/28/2008.