Byron Dorgan is not happy with recent closures at North Dakota State.
The former congressman and senator from North Dakota, who served the state from 1981 to 2011, expressed disappointment in NDSU’s closure of its Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering in a letter to The Forum, calling the closure “a major loss of a great opportunity for NDSU.”
Founded in 2002, the CNSE dissolved early last month due to a lack of funding, a closure heralded internally eight months ago, The Forum reported. The center employed 30 people, the last of which worked their last day on Sept. 30. The Forum reported funding began to decline five years ago for the CSNE after Congress banned earmark dollars.
In 2012, the CSNE began laying off workers. In 2009, the center employed 120 full-time staff, part-time students and faculty researchers, The Forum reported.
In his Dec. 1 letter to The Forum, Dorgan in particular criticized a statement by Kelly Rusch, vice president for research and creative activity, who The Forum reported said, “We’re not losing by the CNSE not being here.”
“That view suggests a lack of leadership and vision,” Dorgan wrote. “NDSU had an opportunity that is available to very few universities. Make no mistake. The closure of CNSE is a major loss for NDSU and North Dakota.”
The Forum reported that much of the CNSE’s research will continue on, with a clean room of NDSU’s Research and Technology Park to be used by at least four classes. Clean rooms maintain a dust-free, sanitary space.
Dorgan wrote in his letter he “worked with key NDSU leaders to create a world-class materials science and microelectronics research center on the NDSU campus as part of the Red River Valley Research Corridor.”
He added over $140 million were invested in the CNSE through federal funding to create three research buildings, clean rooms and advanced equipment.
“CNSE grew rapidly,” Dorgan wrote. “It also attracted funding and support from state and local government. It established successful partnerships with federal agencies and private companies and at the same time attracted some of our best and brightest engineers and scientists to stay and work in North Dakota following graduation.”
Dorgan ended his letter with four questions for NDSU, including who decided to close the CNSE, who was consulted before the decision and why NDSU failed to create a nonprofit allowing commercialization of the CNSE’s work, an idea the university floated.
“Given the investment that was made in CNSE, someone from NDSU should answer some questions about how this failure happened,” Dorgan said.