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Photo of Dr. Subra Suresh

Dr. Subra Suresh
National Science Foundation

at the Grand Opening of the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education C-MORE)

University of Hawaii at Manoa

October 25, 2010

Photo by Sandy Schaeffer

A video of the grand opening and dedication ceremony is available.

Thank you, Dr. Karl [C-MORE Director].

Aloha kakou. Welcome to all.

As the distinguished Senator and Dr. Greenwood said, this is my first official visit as NSF Director, and I started my job about a week ago last Monday.

Now, as was said earlier, there are 17 NSF Science and Technology Centers. They all do very important work in science, in technology, and in service to our nation and to the global society. But I really wonder if the rest of them are doing their work in such a glorious setting. You really have set a good example of how science should be done in the right surrounding.

Before I begin my remarks on C-MORE itself, I would like to publicly acknowledge the support of Sen. Daniel Inouye during my nomination process. I had the distinct honor and pleasure of meeting him in Washington during the summer and I really want to thank you for all of your efforts on my behalf.

We are here today to officially dedicate a magnificent new building -- a Hale -- it is a tangible testimony to the value of this university and the value the university places on the work of the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education.

C-MORE is the first NSF-sponsored STC in Hawaii and it has received very strong support from the leadership of the University of Hawaii's Manoa campus.

It's a very eloquent physical embodiment of the commitment that Hawaii is making to both attract, and to retain, very high-quality research and top-flight scientific talent, and to educate and train the next generation of scientists and engineers, in a very important area for humanity, and especially to train the next generation of Native Hawaiians.

The work that C-MORE's scientists have been doing since 2006 is essentially the kind of fundamental research that NSF prides itself in supporting. That research is also very well integrated with a comprehensive education and outreach program.

It is for these reasons, I could not be more pleased to announce that after a stringent, year-long review process of C-MORE's accomplishments during its first four years, NSF will continue with a fifth year of C-MORE funding.

I hope that this news adds to the festivity of the day.

But I am even more pleased to say that a recommendation has been made for an additional five years of funding, beginning in August of 2011.

Congratulations to all of you associated with C-MORE!

These additional resources will allow C-MORE Hale to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the biological and ecological diversity of marine microorganisms.

Ocean-dwelling microbes are the most abundant life forms on Earth. They are less than a micrometer in size -- so let's put it in context -- the thickness of a human hair is about 80 micrometers, so the size of a microorganism is less than about one-hundredth of the thickness of a human hair. They are small in size, but their impact is really huge. It really transcends size scales -- they can affect climate change, they can affect our life style, so even though they are very small, they are really huge. They are really tiny, but their impact is enormous.

Everything about marine microbes is extraordinarily diverse: their structures, their genomes, their physiologies, and their ecological interactions with one another and with the rest of life on the planet.

And yet, so much about these architects of the planetary biosphere--the extent of their diversity, for example, and the nature of their biological and chemical interactions -- remain a complete mystery.

Recent, drastic changes in the marine ecosystem -- such as the increasing acidification of the oceans as a result of carbon-dioxide build-up in the atmosphere -- could have major and even unpredictable repercussions for the globe.

So we need to understand the implications of these changes on marine-microbial communities.

C-MORE's research draws on dramatic advances in the science of genomics, allowing us to classify existing ocean-dwelling microbes and identify new ones. It also takes advantage of advances in the engineering of autonomous ocean-going vehicles to collect real-time data at sea, and relies on harnessing high-performance computing capabilities to analyze the information in profound new ways.

So this is fundamental science with significant new technology at the cutting edge which has a profound impact on humanity on a global scale. What more could we ask for?

In short, C-MORE's researchers are world leaders in the effort to squeeze the seas for information, and to "sequence the seas" through advances in biology, engineering and computer science.

I have previously said that the very nature of science is changing.

There is, and there will always will be, a place for the gifted individual in science. The individual scientist, and for individual scholarship.

But today, the questions that scientists address are so complex and the answers to various research challenges are so reliant on much divergent information that cooperation among scientists and institutions is no longer just desirable; it is indispensible.

That is why, in addition to a gifted research staff here in the Manoa campus, C-MORE draws on researchers at partner institutions -- the Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- I am delighted to see that my colleague Ed DeLong is here from MIT; I had the honor to serve as the Dean of Engineering at MIT until last month before taking up my new job at the National Science Foundation -- the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute; the University of California at Santa Cruz; Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; and Oregon State University -- to fulfill this mission.

And these are all also very near and dear to my heart -- this is interdisciplinary research, it's multiscale -- going from submicrometer to the really grand, inter-institutional, and it also combines the latest in technology.

The center also has major activities for outreach for graduate students and post-doctoral researchers, and for the public. Through the NSF-funded state-wide program called "Genomes to Biomes" -- Ocean FEST (which stands for Families Exploring Science Together).

So from globally significant science to a vital education and outreach program, C-MORE encompasses the best of Hawaii's research infrastructure and the NSF Science and Technology Center Program.

I am very proud to be here today on this wonderful occasion to celebrate this next phase in C-MORE's evolution.

Thank you very much, Mahalo.