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Gast Reflects on Experience With Research, Energy Plan

By Kirtana Raja


ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR

Alice P. Gast, vice president for research and associate provost, will be leaving MIT at the end of this academic year to become President of Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. Gast has contributed widely to MIT through her efforts with the energy initiative, research funding, and managing laboratory directors. Recently Gast reflected on her experience at MIT with The Tech.

MIT has been a wonderful place to work and that Gast will especially miss collaborating with the faculty, she said. “MIT faculty are so amazing because they are able to come together to work on something that is bigger than their own individual problems and projects.”

“Lehigh has a research culture much like MIT, and I am very impressed with their efforts in research and education so far,” Gast said.

As Vice President of Research at MIT, Gast is connected with many major ongoing research efforts, such as the highly-publicized Energy Initiative. Her role in the energy program includes appointing and managing directors of some of the laboratories such as the Environmental Studies lab, Plasma Fusion Center (PFC), and MIT’s nuclear reactor lab.

PFC is a really big player in the energy dilemma, Gast said, because fusion research and technology is an important part of President Bush’s energy plan. PFC is also going to be collaborating on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).

MIT is now in the process of obtaining industrial as well as federal support to carry out more energy research, and Gast said she will be involved with the fundraising effort until the end of her stay at MIT.

In addition to her managerial role in helping to direct the efforts of the MIT energy initiative, Gast is also involved with facilitating the space and funding requirements for several of MIT’s labs, such as the Center for Materials Science and the Research Laboratory of Electronics. The level of research funds has remained relatively constant, with about $600 million in funds spread out over 1,000 faculty groups, Gast said.

“I know that the labs would all love to have more funding,” Gast said. “Everyone is actively trying to pursue programs from funding agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and the National Science Foundation.”

Gast said she feels that national research is becoming more limited, creating a serious problem because labs have to write very narrowly-focused grant proposals to get research funds, since the grants require such specificity.