Kennedy lauds UML nanotech research

10/19/2006
By From the Lowell Sun

By MICHAEL LAFLEUR, Sun Staff
 
LOWELL -- Nanotechnology research now under way at the University of Massachusetts Lowell will be a crucial part of any future economic success in both Massachusetts and the United States as a whole, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy said yesterday.

"There are many important things happening in our state today, but this is among the most important," Kennedy said during a speech at the campus. "This is a defining aspect for our state and for our future."

Accompanied by his wife, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, Kennedy joined U.S. Rep. Marty Meehan, UMass President Jack Wilson and UMass Lowell Interim Chancellor David MacKenzie as well as state Sen. Steven Panagiotakos, state Reps. Tom Golden, Kevin Murphy and David Nangle and Lowell Mayor Bill Martin in delivering news about a $2 million federal grant that will fund research into the mass production of nanotechnology devices that will benefit the Army.

"You guys are helping us push the turbo button, so we can accelerate what's being done here," said UMass Lowell professor Julie Chen, a director of the university's nanomanufacturing research center.

State lawmakers have pledged $70 million toward a new, state-of-the-art $80 million facility to house the UMass Lowell research center. Plans call for having it completed by 2010. A location has yet to be chosen.

"You are where it's at," Kennedy said of UMass Lowell's efforts. "It's important that the state catch up with you. It is important that the country catch up with you. This whole concept is unlimited in terms of what it can do. Success is going to go to those states and those communities that have innovative industries and innovative technologies, and nanotechnology is right at the top."

Meehan, a UMass Lowell alumnus, noted that nanotechnology research already has resulted in a host of "new and better products that we frequently overlook" such as digital-camera displays, stain-resistant fabrics, improved sunscreens, high-resolution printer inks and high-capacity computer hard drives.

"It's not an exaggeration to state that practically every material we use today will be re-engineered at the nano level to make it better in some significant way over the next 10 to 20 years," he said.

Kennedy, who is up for re-election in November, made several stops throughout the region yesterday.

He began the day with a meeting with Raytheon Missile Systems executives in Andover before traveling to Skip's Diner in Chelmsford to meet with local Democrats. Kennedy traveled from there to the UMass Lowell campus, where he received a closed-door briefing on the university's nanotechnology research efforts.

Kennedy wrapped up his day with a speech on the war in Iraq during a community forum at the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in Bedford.

Michael Lafleur's e-mail address is mlafleur@lowellsun.com.