Summary of FY2002 Budget Request to Congress - National Science Foundation

PHYSICS $183,570,000

The FY 2002 Budget Request for the Physics Subactivity is $183.57 million, a decrease of $3.96 million or -2.1 percent compared with the FY 2001 Current Plan of $187.53 million.

(Millions of Dollars)

   FY 2000
FY 2001
Current Plan
FY 2002
Amount Percent
Physics Research

Totals may not add due to rounding.

The Physics Subactivity (PHY) supports fundamental research in a broad range of physical phenomena, including: atomic, molecular, optical, and plasma physics; elementary particle physics; gravitational physics; nuclear physics; particle and nuclear astrophysics; and theoretical physics. Physics also supports interdisciplinary research, including: biophysics, complex systems, turbulence, and other developing interface areas associated with the core disciplines, for example the interface with information technology. The impact of physics research extends far beyond physics as a result of the discovery of new phenomena and the development of new techniques and basic tools that advance other fields, e.g., laser technology, biomedical technology, information technology, nanotechnology, and many other techniques used in high technology industries.

Typical awards include funding for graduate students, post-doctoral associates, instrumentation development, and other research needs. PHY supports an increasingly vigorous effort in the integration of research and education, including support of the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) and Research at Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) programs, the Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER), and outreach efforts aimed at improving links to K-12 teachers and students. The REU program continues to grow and continues to be very successful in reaching underrepresented minorities and women.

The Physics Subactivity supports a large part of university-based research in the physics sub-disciplines, ranging from nearly 100 percent for gravitational physics to 30-40 percent for other physics programs. The scope of support ranges from small single-investigator awards for research based at the awardee's home institution, to awards to major user groups with principal responsibility for experiments at major national or international user facilities, to support of centers or institutes, to support of national user facilities in elementary particle, nuclear, and gravitational physics. The user facilities represent important elements of the national infrastructure for certain subfields: in elementary particle physics, the Cornell Electron Storage Ring (CESR); in nuclear physics, the Michigan State University National Superconducting Cyclotron Facility (NSCL) and the Indiana University Cyclotron Facility (IUCF); and in gravitational physics, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).

The Physics Subactivity supports major infrastructure for atomic, molecular, optical, and plasma physics. Strong infrastructure support has led directly to many important breakthroughs, including: development of a basic atom laser; single atom manipulation techniques that offer prospects for fundamentally new information technologies; the continued development of femtosecond, terawatt lasers for studies of atomic and molecular processes under extreme conditions, with many very important applications to medicine, higher speed communications, and materials technology; and the development of powerful, sculpted pulses which show promise for providing selective control and management of chemical reactions.

There were a number of major achievements in FY 2000 in the important area characterized broadly as 'quarks to the cosmos':

  • first 'locking' and operation of the 2-km LIGO gravitational wave detector at Hanford, a major step towards observational gravitational wave astronomy;

  • completion of construction of the MSU coupled-cyclotron upgrade project, leading to unique new opportunities using radioactive ion beams in the study of nuclear astrophysics;

  • the recent release of new experimental results on the spin structure of the muon that appear to be telling us that there is new physics beyond the extremely successful, but not ultimately fundamental, standard model of elementary particles;

  • the start by physics grantees of the ITR-supported GriPhyN project to develop a hierarchical worldwide net to share and analyze data from central facilities such as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and LIGO, representing a truly new paradigm regarding data sharing and cooperation in research; and

The "quantum realm" is another broad area supported in which there has been important progress. The development of femtosecond pulsed laser systems made it possible to study time evolution of atomic and molecular systems via a technique called time-resolved spectroscopy. Simply put, this new laser stabilization method will enable us to command the time evolution of atomic processes, representing a major step forward in quantum control that is essential to the development of quantum information science, quantum computing, and to laser-based chemistry.

The FY 2002 Budget request includes:

  • A decrease of $6.93 million in Physics Research to a total of $124.72 million. Through the redirection of existing funds, we will provide enhanced support for Physics Frontiers Centers, a program begun in FY 2001 to provide critical resources and needed infrastructure to exceptionally promising new areas of physics. Lower priority research areas will be reduced. Support for the Center for Ultrafast Optical Science, a Science and Technology Center (STC), terminates following the normal STC sunset schedule. Support of forefront areas of physics, with some emphasis on particle and nuclear astrophysics, atom-level manipulation, quantum information science, biological physics and advanced R&D towards next generation particle accelerators and gravitational wave detectors will continue. Education and outreach activities will receive continued emphasis: enhancing K-12 science teacher training, integrating research and education, and broadening the role physics plays in new and emerging areas of research, including the training of young physicists.

  • An increase of $2.97 million for Facilities to a total of $58.85 million. This increase corresponds to: (1) an increase in the operating budget to make effective use of the Michigan State University's National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory's, radioactive ion beam upgrade project; (2) increased operating support for LIGO as the detector moves towards full operations and the first coincidence observations between LIGO's two detector sites; and (3) a reduction of support for the Indiana University Cyclotron Facility corresponding to partial support in the final year of operations of that facility. Funding for the Cornell Electron Storage Ring (CESR) operations will remain at $19.50 million.

The Physics Subactivity also oversees the construction of the LHC. See the Major Research Equipment Account for additional information.

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