Obama representative eyes Fermilab's economic future
Michael Kelleher (center), a representative from U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's office, toured Fermilab's accelerator tunnels and experiments last Friday.
A representative from the office of U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., toured Fermilab Friday, affirming a commitment to support the laboratory.
Michael Kelleher, the director of outreach and economic development in Obama's office, has toured the laboratory twice before as a friend of James Santucci, in the Accelerator Division.
He returned Friday to view the laboratory with a critical eye to its economic impact now, and potentially in the future. The laboratory has an annual budget of about $340 million, a figure that would grow if Fermilab was to host the proposed International Linear Collider in the next decade.
"[Fermilab] has tremendous economic benefits to the state, and first and foremost Barack Obama is an Illinois senator. This is an asset we need to nurture and preserve," Kelleher said.
Santucci led Kelleher and other staffers on a whirlwind tour of accelerator tunnels and experiments at the laboratory.
Kelleher also received briefings on the proposal for the ILC and Fermilab's major role in the project's research and design. The tour incorporated a look at infrastructure for ILC research and development.
Kelleher met with scientists; Pier Oddone, Fermilab director; and Young-Kee Kim, Fermilab deputy director. Oddone explained the laboratory's forthcoming proposal for Project X, an interim accelerator that might be built if the ILC is delayed.
Halfway through his full-day tour, Kelleher said he was impressed with the experiments he had seen.
Kelleher's interest in science has made him a de-facto translator for much of the Illinois delegation, explaining why they should care about science, including high-energy physics.
A consensus exists among legislators that the United States needs to catch up to other nations in the study of math and science.
"The economies in the last 500 years that have thrived and produced the highest standard of living are those that have captured technology and been at the leading edge," Kelleher said.
Keeping top scientists in Illinois at Fermilab and in the nation as a whole spurs industry and boosts the economy.
"That infrastructure, the brains, is so important for Chicago," he said. "I don't know why anyone would want it to leave."
-- Tona Kunz