Florida State Beats MIT for Magnet Lab

FLORIDA State University has beaten prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in a bid to house what is envisioned as the world's leading magnetic research laboratory, officials announced Friday. The National Science Foundation picked the Tallahassee, Fla., location over the Cambridge, Mass., site for the National Magnetic Field Laboratory, contrary to the recommendation of a scientific panel that studied the proposals.

Both proposals were strong, but the Florida site was chosen in part because of the state's pledge of long-term support, including money for 34 full-time faculty, 20 visiting faculty, and other personnel, officials said.

The lab is expected to lead to major new discoveries by using strong magnetic fields to conduct research in such diverse fields as biology, chemistry, and materials research.

Florida officials hailed Friday's decision, while their Massachusetts counterparts condemned the move and called on the National Science Foundation (NSF) to reconsider its action.

``This puts us in the major leagues to stay. This demonstrates that the scientists and engineers in our universities can compete with the best in the world,'' said Charles Reed, chancellor of the Florida state university system.

``This is fantastic news for all of Florida,'' added Florida Gov. Bob Martinez.

The government-funded NSF will spend $6 million in the current fiscal year to begin construction of the facility and plans to spend another $12 million the next year and a total of about $60 million over five years.

The state of Florida has pledged another $58 million over five years for the facility, which will be run by the Florida State University, the University of Florida, and the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

But MIT president Paul Gray expressed dismay that the NSF ignored the counsel of its scientific advisers, who, he said, concluded that MIT's facilities, staff, and experience were superior to Florida State's. MIT currently houses the Francis Bitter Magnet Laboratory.

The MIT proposal was made with Boston, Harvard, Tufts, Brandeis, and Northeastern Universities in Massachusetts.

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